Up to London first thing and into the Chamber for a Statement on the future of Huawei by Oliver Dowden, DCMS Secretary of State. Mr Dowden pleased many of us as he announced that the UK's mobile providers were being banned from buying new Huawei 5G equipment after 31 December, and they must also remove all the Chinese firm's 5G kit from their networks by 2027. Mr Dowden told the Chamber that the decision followed sanctions imposed by Washington, which claims the firm poses a national security threat - something Huawei denies. I was number 30 to ask a question on a list of 40 and was called. My question and the answer I received are on the website. Iain Duncan-Smith said there was no reason why we could not bring the 2027 date forward by two years. The sooner, the better, in my view. There will no doubt be repercussions from the Chinese whose Ambassador said as much recently. But it's time to come out of China's vast economic drag-net, not least for security reasons. And the West must start researching more in R&D to ensure we are not left behind technically in such a strategic area. I had put in a question for Justice Questions, but did not make the list. So at 1400 I joined another session of our Defence Select Committee. The session's aim was to explore with three experts the role and contribution of the Ministry of Defence in responding to crises and other contingencies, with specific reference to the current pandemic. It covered:
• UK and Defence preparations for a pandemic outbreak;
• how the government and the Ministry of Defence have adapted their plans in response to Covid-19;
• the contribution of the Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces during the pandemic crisis; and,
• what lessons should be learned from the Armed Forces role in the Covid-19 pandemic.
The three contributors were Professor David Alexander, from the University College London, Dr Jennifer Cole, from the Royal Holloway University, and Mr Bruce Mann CB, who has held a wide range of policy and operational roles within the MoD and Cabinet Office. The session lasted for two hours. Meanwhile, in the Chamber the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill passed its Second and Third reading. It will mean that we retain the same number of MPs, 650, but that each Seat will have circa the same number of constituents. This is good news and long overdue. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that wearing a face-covering in shops and supermarkets in England will become mandatory from 24 July. He told the Commons: "Sadly, sales assistants, cashiers and security guards have suffered disproportionately in this crisis. The death rate of sales and retail assistants is 75 per cent higher amongst men and 60 per cent higher amongst women than in the general population."