Jacob Rees-Mogg caught breaking his own social distancing rules in parliament

Joanna Taylor
Thursday 04 June 2020 09:15
news

Jacob Rees-Mogg appears to have already broken his own advice that MPs should remain six feet apart from each other in the House of Commons.

The leader of the house could be seen standing closely between other MPs in a clip shown on BBC Two's Politics Live in the run up to Prime Minister's Questions.

Rees-Mogg spearheaded the plan to scrap virtual voting and have all MPs return to the Commons after testing out plans that were supposed to ensure they would remain at least six feet apart at all times in the house. He is also working on plans to accommodate for MPs with underlying health conditions.

The plan was voted in with 261 ayes to 163 noes, but was ridiculed for creating a "Mogg conga" around parliament.

Signposts around the queue to enter parliament remind MPs to remain two metres apart, in line with government advice for meeting with people from outside your household. Rees-Mogg has himself affirmed that MPs should remain 6 feet (1.8m) apart in the Commons.

On 2 June Labour MP Ruth Cadbury asked Rees-Mogg if he had considered the possibility that parliament may again be disrupted if an MP experienced coronavirus symptoms in the Commons.

He responded:

Well, the answer to that is: look around—if you seek a monument, look around. We are sitting six feet away from each other so that we are socially distanced, and therefore, if one right hon. or hon. Member has the coronavirus, in the track-and-tracing process we would not be notifying them about the people that we are sitting six feet away from. That is the whole point of social distancing.

If we look on the floor, we see it says, “Please wait here until the person in front has moved forward”, and that goes back and back at six feet intervals all the way through, so that this can be done on a socially distanced basis, in line with Public Health England guidelines.

The decision to have MPs return to parliament to vote drew further criticism and calls for Rees-Mogg to resign after it was revealed that business secretary Alok Sharma had been tested for coronavirus after taking ill in the Commons on 3 June. Labour have also opposed the measure.

The image of Rees-Mogg standing closely to other MPs as he waited to enter the chamber has been shared by Amy Leversidge, assistant general secretary to the FDA union for civil servants. She said:

Fundamentally the Government are not following their own advice - they should not have planned a full physical return to parliament before they knew it could be done safely. No other workplace would take such a cavalier attitude to the safety of their staff.

There are hundreds of parliamentary staff who have no choice but to be physically present on site so that Parliament can function - there safety must be paramount. There is only one sensible way forward and that is to restore the hybrid Parliament so that house authorities, MPs and unions can work together to plan the return to parliament safely.

The "hybrid parliament" refers to the fact that during lockdown a small number of MPs were present in the chamber whilst others asked questions and cast votes from their homes.

Jacob Rees-Mogg has been contacted for comment.

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