As Parliament reconvened today, Jacob Rees-Mogg made the Government’s case for proceedings to take place over video link due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Leader of the House of Commons introduced a temporary hybrid house comprised of ministers social distancing while sitting physically in the Commons and MPs dialling in via Zoom video conference call. However, even before standing taking the floor to argue for the virtual Parliament, the Tory MP was forced to acknowledge that he had not followed his own Government’s advice.
He told the House: “The same rules apply to us as to everybody else.
“That is the whole point of what we are trying to do and therefore facilitating working remotely, but trying to ensure social distancing within this House.
“Now I noticed as we began prayers and Mr Speaker walked in front of me, only a metre apart, somebody said ‘that’s not social distancing’.
“There will be occassions, even within this House, where it is not kept to absolutely perfectly, which is within the spirit of the rules.”
Mr Rees-Mogg continued: “As long as we are making our best effort to ensure social distancing.
“Hence the tape that has been put down and the novel style of prayer card that we see in the seats to ensure that we are in the right places.
“I think that is completely in line with the guidance given to the rest of the country.
“If I may add, we have a two-fold duty of leadership as members of this House.”
The Commons leader added: “One is to show we are following the rules that apply to everybody else.
“The other is to lead by example in showing that we are getting on with our essential work.
“I think, with the proposals that have been brought forward, we are doing both of those.”
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Mr Rees-Mogg said the innovation was necessary to ensure the work of government could continue despite the coronavirus crisis.
He joked that despite being a traditionalist he welcomes the video conference call technology that will keep ministers safe during the virus outbreak.
Up to 120 MPs will be able to quiz ministers on Zoom, while a maximum of 50 will be allowed into the main debating room itself.
Measures to be introduced include large screens lining the chamber walls, hazard tape marking safe social distances and the usual prayer card holders filled with ticks and no entry signs telling politicians where they can and cannot sit.
Only about two hours of proceedings will be held this way, with the rest happening with the slimmed down number of MPs permitted to attend in person.
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