By Claire Gordon • 27 October 2021 • 19:06
In update guidance issued by the House of Commons, all staff, visitors, contractors and press must cover their faces to help stop the spread of Covid-19. However, it has been left to individual MPs to decide if they wish to wear one or not, and many Conservatives have chosen not. As MPs are not employed by the Commons authorities, they cannot be forced to wear masks in the chamber.
As the chamber is usually packed out for reading of the Budget, Sajid Javid has said he will wear a mask on that occasion, but that it is a ‘personal decision’ whether other ministers followed suit. The Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, has encouraged the members of parliament to don a face covering and set a good example but unions representing the workers of the building have urged him to be tougher with his words.
Face coverings are being worn during debates by the majority of the opposition parties. Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and the SNP have all voted within their parties to continue the practice. But Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said just last week the Conservatives knew each other so well, they could do away with the need to wear masks. Due to their close nature, this meant they were complying with government guidance. He also claimed that Labour MPs only wore their masks for the television cameras.
The latest official UK guidance is that people in England should wear a fave covering around “people you don’t normally meet”. Garry Graham, deputy general secretary of the union Prospect, said the public looked to MPs to set an example. He spoke to the BBC and said: “It’s welcome that House authorities are finally catching on to what unions have been saying, that it’s too early to relax. But we’re still left in the ludicrous situation where MPs do as they please on masks while everyone else does the right thing,” he said. “Continuously changing an already inconsistent message is a recipe for non-compliance and increased risk to everyone.”
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