Downing Street
© Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street
Downing Street press conferences and Cabinet meetings have been stripped back to a video link
MPs are set to leave Parliament tonight as they begin an almost month-long recess due to the coronavirus.

The House of Commons will break up almost a week earlier than planned for Easter until April 21 - as long as an emergency law to tackle the outbreak is passed by tonight.

Yet manual workers like builders, plumbers and electricians are still being told to go into work, even where there work is not essential to the running of the country.


Comment: This perhaps gives us an idea of just who the 'essential workers' are in the country.


The Coronavirus Bill will give police powers to fine people £1,000 for not taking a coronavirus test and keep them in quarantine for a month.

It allows mentally ill people to be detained or dead people to be medically certified on the opinion of just one doctor.

Sweeping powers will force supermarkets to disclose any problems in the food supply or be fined 1% of their turnover.

And morgues could be expanded and inquests stripped back in order to deal with at least 25,000 anticipated deaths.

The 329-page Bill - whose powers last for two years or more - is expected to whip through the House of Lords at speed tonight before the Commons rises for Easter at 7pm.

A motion by Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg on today's order paper says the Commons would only return on April 21.

Just days ago a Cabinet minister told the Mirror Parliament would be the last place to close down due to the coronavirus.

"If Parliament shuts, the UK shuts," they said.

But the landscape has changed dramatically over the past week after Boris Johnson imposed a dramatic lockdown and banned gatherings of two or more in public.

Downing Street press conferences and Cabinet meetings have been stripped back to a video link, MPs have maintained a two-metre separation in the Commons, and committee hearings have in many cases been cancelled.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said select committees will continue to be able to scrutinise the Government even if they do not enter the parliamentary estate.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Parliament will return after the Easter break in the usual way. There's been another order in Parliament to create ways for select committees for example to operate remotely.

"So I think innovation will happen to make it possible for MPs to hold us to account."

Yet many non-essential workers such as those in construction are still being told to go into work.

And today the government told electricians and plumbers they could continue work in private homes - as long as neither they nor the household are self-isolating.

Boris Johnson is under growing pressure to stop non-essential construction workers heading to building sites as the country attempts to tackle the spread of coronavirus.

The Prime Minister has faced calls from across the political spectrum for more stringent rules so workers are not placed at risk, and public transport is not overwhelmed.

Mr Johnson, who will appear before MPs on Wednesday for Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons, has so far resisted the pressure.

In measures announced on Monday, the PM told people to only go to work if "absolutely necessary".

But on Tuesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said those who cannot work from home, including key workers in the NHS and social care, should go to work "to keep the country running".

The Health Secretary said construction workers were among those who could continue to work as long as they could remain two metres apart at all times.

But some builders and construction workers have said they feel "angry and unprotected" going to work, while others are under pressure from employers to go in.

Conservative former cabinet minister Sir Iain Duncan Smith added his voice to the calls, telling BBC Two's Newsnight: "I think the balance is where we should delete some of those construction workers from going to work and focus only on the emergency requirements."

Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, told the programme: "This decision about allowing non-essential work appears to be taken for economic reasons when actually - when you're in the middle of a global pandemic - health reasons alone really should be guiding all decision making."