Briefing Note: Coronavirus Bill 2019-21

23 March 2020

A Bill is going through the House of Commons today, with the aim of allowing the Government more powers to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Briefing Note: Coronavirus Bill 2019-21
What does the Coronavirus Bill do?

According to the Department for Health and Social Care, the purpose of the Coronavirus Bill is to enable the Government to respond to an emergency situation and manage the effects of a covid-19 pandemic.

The Bill contains temporary measures designed to either amend existing legislative provisions or introduce new statutory powers which are designed to mitigate the potential impacts of the pandemic.

The Bill covers areas including:

  • Increasing the available health and social care workforce
  • Easing the burden on frontline staff
  • Containing and slowing the virus
  • Managing the deceased with respect and dignity
  • Supporting people

You can read the full explanatory notes for the Bill on Parliament’s website. The Government has also provided further detail on what the bill is designed to do on the website. The Government have also prepared a document setting out the summary of impacts of the bill, and the House of Commons Library have prepared an impartial briefing paper looking at the detail of the Bil.

What can we expect to see on Monday?

Like all Bills, the Coronavirus Bill will be required to be complete all of its stages in both Houses before it can receive Royal Assent and become an Act (be passed into Law).

On Monday afternoon, the bill is expected to go through all its House of Commons stages, before being passed on to the House of Lords for further scrutiny from Peers on Tuesday for Second Reading, with Remaining Stages in the Lords taking place on Wednesday.

If any ping-pong should occur, the Government have provided time in the order paper to ensure both Houses can consider any necessary amendments before approving the Bill for Royal Assent.

What timings can we expect to see on Monday?

Following the announcement of a business statement taking place at 3:30pm, we can likely expect proceedings on the Coronavirus Bill to begin shortly after 4pm, with the Second Reading of the Bill. Second Reading is the scrutiny of the general principles and concepts of the bill. This has been allotted a maximum of 4 hours in the order paper, with there being an opportunity to vote once the House has concluded its debate on this stage of the Bill. However there is no obligation for the full allotted four hours to be used, and it is possible for Second Reading to be approved without a vote, known as “on the nod”.

Following conclusion of Second Reading stage, the Bill will then move through to Committee and Remaining Stages for the remaining time – up to six hours from the commencement of proceedings on the Bill (so if debate started at 3:30pm, the time that debate must end on all stages of the bill will be 9:30pm). This period is the line by line scrutiny of the bill where the House looks more closely at the detail of the Bill and discusses any points of contention. This part of the debate is chaired by the Chairman of Ways and Means. Once this period is concluded, we can expect to see the House decide (either via a division or on the nod) on any amendments before making a final decision on the Bill either in its current form or as amended.

Any tabled amendments to the bill will be published in an amendment paper under the bill documents section of our website. We can expect this document to be updated this afternoon at the start of Committee stage. It is also possible that manuscript amendments will be submitted, manuscript amendments are amendments of which no notice has been given until the day itself.

It is difficult to say exactly when a final vote or decision will be made by the House on the Bill as there is no obligation to use all the allotted time, the best way to determine when decisions will be made will be by watching the debate, particularly once the House has moved on to the Committee Stage.

The full guidance regarding timings can be found in the Business of the House Motion, which is Item 1 on page 5 of today’s Order Paper.


Find more detail on everything from emergency powers, sunset clauses and more in the briefing document from the House of Commons Library.

Further Reading and how to follow the debate

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