Masks made mandatory again in parliament for staff – but not for ‘above the rules’ MPs

Union bosses tell MPs to ‘stop this reckless behaviour’

Adam Forrest
Wednesday 27 October 2021 12:43
Tories won’t wear masks in Commons because they ‘know each other’, Rees-Mogg says

Masks have been made mandatory again for staff in parliament except MPs – sparking accusations that politicians are behaving as if they are “above the rules”.

The Commons authorities have updated Covid guidance to say all staff, visitors and media must cover their faces to combat the upsurge in cases.

But it remains up to each MP whether they choose to wear a mask or not. Conservative MPs have come in for heaviest criticism, having largely ditched face coverings in recent months.

The FDA union for civil servants said elected representatives were acting as if they were “above” the rules that everyone else on the parliamentary estate has to follow.

The union’s national officer Jawad Raza told The Independent: “This isn’t about politics, it’s about the health and well-being of others in the workplace. It’s high time MPs stop this reckless behaviour.”

Mr Raza added: “This has never been more important than on Budget day, when hundreds of MPs and parliamentary staff will pack into the chamber with no room for social distancing.”

New guidance in advance of Rishi Sunak’s Budget speech on Wednesday said that “all face-to-face meetings with colleagues should be avoided, unless there is a business need”.

The memo said the change was “due to recent increases in Covid-19 across the country” and added that the “highly fluid” would be reviewed on 4 November.

Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg was condemned for saying last week that Tory MPs do not need to wear masks in parliament because with they have “a more convivial, fraternal spirit” than other parties.

But around half of backbench Tory MPs were seen wearing masks in the chamber for PMQs and the Budget announcement, having been encouraged to change their stance by party chiefs.

Boris Johnson and several members of his front bench were seen wearing masks on Wednesday – but Mr Rees-Mogg was again seen without a face covering.

MPs have pointed to the fact that they are not employed by the Commons authorities, unlike staff and contractors, so cannot be forced to wear masks.

The Prospect union, which represents workers in parliament, said the situation with face coverings was “ludicrous” and accused MPs of appearing to “pretend that the pandemic is over”.

Garry Graham, deputy general secretary, said: “It’s welcome that House authorities are finally catching on to what unions have been saying, that it’s too early to relax.

He added: “But we’re still left in the ludicrous situation where MPs do as they please on masks while everyone else does the right thing.”

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