Watch: Jacob Rees-Mogg says MPs who want to stay home during pandemic are 'wet'
Jacob Rees-Mogg dismisses calls for MPs to return to remote voting
MPs raise concerns about increasing spread of COVID-19 by attending parliament when they could instead vote at home
But Commons leader Rees-Mogg says these concerns are “wet” when people such as nurses and supermarket workers have been going to work throughout pandemic
Jacob Rees-Mogg has said MPs who want to stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic are “wet”.
It comes amid calls for a return to remote voting in the House of Commons, with COVID-19 infections quickly increasing across the country.
Rees-Mogg dismissed these calls, pointing to how people such as nurses and supermarket workers have been going to work throughout the pandemic.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Thursday, SNP MP Tommy Sheppard pointed out many MPs live in areas which may soon be under “intensified” restrictions which prevent all but essential travel.
He said these MPs would still be able to travel to parliament under this essential travel exemption – but that this would be “perverse… if we have the ability to participate remotely”.
Rees-Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons, rejected this.
“We need to turn up to do our job. We are an essential service.
“And I think it’s pretty wet, quite frankly, that we expect doctors, nurses, police officers, people working in supermarkets, we expect the cleaners in the House of Commons to come round and do their job… and we say we’ve got to stay at home because we’re not willing to come.
“We have a duty to be here, our public duty – that’s why we were elected. We were elected to be an assembly of the nation, not people sitting remotely, throwing stones.”
Labour MP Ruth Cadbury also raised concerns, telling Rees-Mogg: “On days when there are votes, the 500-plus of us who are not self-isolating for health or public health reasons are required to be here to vote, crowding into corridors and halls of this building, putting ourselves and staff at additional risk – particularly as so many members don’t seem to respect the government’s rule on spacing.”
She asked what level of infection it would take for the government to allow MPs to return to online voting.
However, Rees-Mogg again dismissed this as he repeated what he had said to Sheppard: “The idea that democracy should be suspended when doctors are at work, nurses are at work, supermarket workers are at work... we are not some priestly cast above the rest of the nation.”
In late April, at the peak of the pandemic, “hybrid” proceedings were introduced to the House of Commons, allowing online voting.
This was dropped by Rees-Mogg at the beginning of June, though some MPs with certain health conditions are still allowed to vote by proxy.
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