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Lichfield MP objects to Parliament's planned return

By Thomas Parkes | Lichfield | Politics | Published:

A Staffordshire MP has said plans for Parliament to return to businesses as usual would be every epidemiologist's "very worst nightmare".

Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant said he objected to the move on practical grounds

Michael Fabricant said he rarely disagreed with Government policy but objected to the move on wholly practical grounds amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Lichfield MP said returning to the House of Commons next month would not be safe with MPs travelling from areas with different infection rates.

It comes after Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg suggested virtual proceedings will end on June 2 as they were stifling debate and scrutiny.

Mr Fabricant said: "If anyone believes that an early return in June will mean a return to 'business as usual', they are badly misinformed.

"Social distancing rules set by the Speaker with the support of the Commission and, indeed Jacob, as Leader of the House, mean that only 47 MPs out of 650 MPs will continue to be allowed to attend the chamber of the House of Commons at any one time. This rule will apply for some time yet.

"So Prime Minister’s Questions, important statements, and normally heated debates on legislation will sadly appear as they do now – with a denuded House of Commons chamber.

"It will not be business as usual."

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The Conservative politician said the hybrid arrangements – with some MPs in the chamber and others at home, working virtually – were far from perfect.

Risks

But it meant all politicians can take part in voting on legislation, asking questions, scrutinising the Government and undertaking constituency work.

And cramped conditions in the historic building would not be an ideal environment for staff – with social distancing near impossible due to its narrow corridors.

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Mr Fabricant added: "Meanwhile, having MPs arrive in Westminster from other parts of the country which are still experiencing high rates of infection is an epidemiologist’s very worst nightmare.

"Nevertheless, those who do wish to work in Westminster despite the risks to others and themselves are free to do so – no-one is stopping them. And some can be seen now on the backbenches.

"In the last week, I have asked questions of ministers including the Prime Minister, chaired a well 'attended' All Party Parliamentary Group meeting, attended a meeting of the House Administration Committee, and voted several times on the Agriculture Bill. All without mishap. All from home. All MPs are able to do so.

"So until the pandemic weakens and the Government is able to change its instruction from 'work from home if you possibly can', parliamentarians should set an example and do just that."

Thomas Parkes

By Thomas Parkes
Senior Reporter - @TParkes_Star

Senior reporter at the Express & Star, based in Wolverhampton. Got a story? Get in touch at thomas.parkes@expressandstar.co.uk.

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