Tory MP criticises 'lazy' colleagues who oppose returning to parliament during lockdown

A Tory MP has accused parliamentarians of being “work-shy” and on the “lazy left” as Conservatives told members to return to the House of Commons.

Henry Smith’s comments come as Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg told MPs to return to parliament after recess, which ends on 2 June.

Politicians have been using remote video calls to take part in debates and committees under measures implemented to try and keep members safe from the coronavirus.

Opposition politicians have criticised the move to return to Westminster, however, with questions raised over safety and whether going back could constitute an essential journey.

Smith, the MP for Crawley, tweeted that he should not be surprised about the criticism.

However, Angela Rayner, the deputy Labour leader, described his comments as “poor” and said MPs had been working hard during lockdown.

Her colleague, Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips, branded Smith’s comments as “appalling”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London.

Government advice says that you should return to work if you are unable to carry out your job from home.

Rees-Mogg said on Wednesday that the remote working arrangement, which saw a handful of MPs keeping their distance from each other in the House of Commons with others dialling in with video messaging, should be changed.

He argued that the time MPs are given to debate bills faced being cut “by around two thirds”.

“We have to recognise that if we persist with the present arrangement it will become harder to make progress in a timely fashion,” he said.

“That is why, in line with government advice for those who cannot do their jobs from home, I am asking members to return to their place of work after Whitsun (recess).”

He insisted that when MPs return, parliament would be a “COVID-19 secure workplace” and would not be a return “to the crowded, bustling chamber of old”, with members practising social distancing.

A spokesman for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said on Wednesday: “The government’s own advice, its own public health advice, is those who can work from home should.

“Parliament has developed a successful system using technology to ensure the scrutiny of government, while allowing people to work remotely.

“The government has yet to provide an honest explanation as to why they want to bring this virtual system to an end.”

SNP Cabinet Office spokesperson Tommy Sheppard described the plans as “reckless, cavalier and downright dangerous” and were forcing MPs “to make a choice between standing up for those who elected them and putting their own health and the health of others at risk”.

Liberal Democrat Alistair Carmichael, who represents Orkney and Shetland, said the trip MPs make to go back to London would be “non-essential journeys”.

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