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Coronavirus: Rees-Mogg sticks by plan to bring MPs back


May. 20, 2020

Jacob Rees-Mogg will later face MPs over plans to bring them all back to Westminster in two weeks' time.
The Commons leader believe MPs cannot do their job properly via video link - and he wants them to set an example to the rest of the country.
He plans to end "hybrid" working, with some MPs participating from home, on 2 June, after the Whitsun recess.
Opposition parties want to continue working remotely to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
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But Mr Rees-Mogg has accused them of trying to "stop the government getting things done".
He has agreed that MPs' staff and Parliamentary workers can continue to work from home, amid concerns they would be put at risk, following a meeting of the Commons Commission .
'Huge success'
But he will argue that the Commons will be made compliant with Public Health England's social distancing guidelines.
And he is expected to reject calls to allow MPs to work from home on non-substantive matters such, as ministerial questions, and only travel to Westminster to take part in key votes.
The Commons chamber is likely to be limited to 50 MPs and voting could take much longer than it did before the coronavirus lockdown, but Mr Rees-Mogg will be under pressure on Wednesday to spell out more details about how proceedings will work.
He will make a statement to MPs on post-Whitsun working. After that, he faces an urgent question from Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael, about concerns he is bringing Parliament back too early.
On Tuesday, Labour MPs claimed the real reason the government wanted MPs back was to shore up Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Labour MP Chi Onwurah said: "The digital Parliament has been a huge success, but now the leader of the House wants to abandon it and instead insist that 650 MPs, potential superspreaders, should travel from across the country to cram into Westminster, putting constituents and staff at risk.
"Why would the government ignore its own advice that those who can work from home should, unless it is to cast a protective cloak around their floundering prime minister?"
'Stymie government'
SNP MP Carol Monaghan said it was "almost impossible" to go 10-metres without having to touch a door handle in Parliament and asked how MPs and House staff can keep safe.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Jacob Rees-Mogg says MPs can't scrutinise legislation properly from home
Mr Rees-Mogg said that the virtual Commons "simply isn't a proper Parliament doing its job," as it limited the amount of scrutiny of legislation.
Speaking on his ConservativeHome podcast, he said: "Frankly, the opposition like having a hybrid Parliament because what is the opposition there to do? It's there to stop the government getting things done.
"And it was willing to sacrifice a degree of scrutiny to stymie the government's programme."
He said it would be "unreasonable" for pupils to start returning to schools in England - which could happen from 1 June in a phased manner - while MPs stayed away from Parliament.
But Conservative MP, Karen Bradley, who chairs the Commons Procedure Committee, said MPs should be allowed to continue working remotely until it is safe to return,
She told BBC News: "I have always been clear in my view that the hybrid House of Commons was an excellent achievement from the House of Commons service, though it can never replace the spontaneity and cut and thrust of direct debate in the House of Commons chamber.
"Hybrid proceedings are not ideal - but in my view some form of continued virtual participation is the best option we have until it is safe to use the Chamber as before and all members are able to return."
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