Labour MPs’ Brexit-style tactics to continue virtual Parliament fail ‘not priestly caste!’

Posted on May 22 2020 - 8:20am by admin

But the move failed and they will be expected to take their place in the chamber to contribute from June 2. Jacob Rees-Mogg said MPs have a “duty” to return and are not a “special priestly caste” who should be treated differently from other workers. The Commons leader insisted the building will be “COVID-19 secure” by next month.

He told MPs they cannot do their jobs “properly” from home and if they consider scrutiny of the government essential they should return at the start of next month.

“We are facing exactly the same issues as other workplaces where working from home is not good enough,” he said.

“These are not unique to us. We are in the same situation as the rest of the nation and we shouldn’t think that MPs are some special priestly caste who must be treated differently.

“We should stand with our own constituents.”

During lockdown a hybrid system has been operating in the Commons that allows some MPs to speak in the chamber while others take part by video link.

Official coronavirus guidelines say workers who cannot carry out their jobs from home should return to the workplace where possible.

Opposition parties said that MPs with health problems and those who live furthest from London would be left without a chance to take part in scrutiny of the government.

Liberal Democrat Alistair Carmichael, who represents Orkney and Shetland, said he would have to take a non-essential journey of “almost the entire length of this country” to participate.

Mr Carmichael said that he found the virtual arrangements “stilted and artificial”, but added: “If it’s a choice between that and putting the safety of members, their families and staff of the House at risk, then that is no choice at all and it should only end when safe to do so.”

Opposition parties MPs tried to take control of the Commons agenda to enable a vote on how the chamber operates after the Whitsun recess but their amendment was not selected.

Similar tactics were used by Remainers at the height of the Brexit deadlock to force the government’s hand.

Numbers in the chamber have been limited to 50 MPs during lockdown and social distancing will continue.

MPs’ staff will be “strongly advised to continue working from home” for the moment.

Mr Rees-Mogg said: “Under the hybrid proceedings the time this House is able to spend debating legislation faces being cut by around two-thirds. I am sure all members will agree that each and every one of the 36 Bills put forward by the Government in the Queen’s Speech deserves the proper level of scrutiny.

“We have to recognise that if we persist with the present arrangement it will become harder to make progress in a timely fashion.

“That is why, in line with Government advice for those who cannot do their jobs from home, I am asking members to return to their place of work after Whitsun.

“We will not be returning to the crowded, bustling chamber of old, we will be observing social distancing.”

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