PMQs: Boris Johsnon thanks opposition for ‘cooperation’

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

PMQs went ahead with a subdued tone today with noticeably fewer MPs attending after advice against large gatherings during the coronavirus outbreak.

And Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn appeared to shift away from their usual fiery despatch box battles, instead channelling a more cohesive cross bench discussion.

The Prime Minister thanked the opposition for its approach to the situation and for the “cooperation that has so far take place”.

Nevertheless, Mr Corbyn maintained that the opposition benches would continue to “do our duty to hold the government to account”.

He challenged his opponent over issues such as sick pay and the effect of the pandemic on private renters.

It followed Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement yesterday that the government would be unleashing hundreds of billions of pounds to support the economy as businesses and individuals are faced with financial uncertainty.

The Labour leader asked: “Can the Prime Minister do what the Chancellor repeatedly refused to do yesterday and pledge to increase statutory sick pay to European levels.

Mr Johnson noted the coronavirus outbreak is a “national emergency” and replied that as the government had asked the public to take extreme measures of isolation and distance, it was “absolutely right that whatever their circumstances we should ensure workers get the support they need”.

While he did not explicitly meet Mr Corbyn’s request, he continued: “So in addition to the package of business support that the Chancellor outlined yesterday, we will be working with the unions, working with colleagues across the House, we will be bringing forward further measures to support workers of all kinds throughout this crisis.”

MPs were told that only those with questions listed on the order paper attend Prime Minister’s Questions.

Those who did attend were told to sit with appropriate distance between them.

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