Masks 'Optional' For MPs But Compulsory For Parliament Staff From July 19

·3-min read
(Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS via Getty Images)
(Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS via Getty Images)

Mask-wearing is to be optional for MPs but compulsory for parliamentary staff working in Westminster, new guidance has revealed.

New guidance emailed to MPs states that staff would be “required” to use face coverings until parliament heads for its summer break next week.

But the memo from Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, which has been leaked to HuffPost UK, states that MPs will only be “encouraged” to wear masks after the government lifts all Covid restrictions on July 19.

The email includes a range of measures to be adopted by parliament for the four days that parliament sits after so-called “Freedom Day” next Monday.

A section titled “Outside the Chamber” states: “Until 22 July, Members will be encouraged to continue wearing face coverings, and all others on the estate will be required to wear them while moving around the estate or entering venues.

“It will also mean that until the rise of the House the overall capacity of the estate will remain limited.”

One staff member working in the palace said: “It’s literally one rule for them...”

Commons covid rules (Photo: Commons)
Commons covid rules (Photo: Commons)

The general public will no longer be legally required to wear face coverings from July 19, although new guidance issued by the government advises that they should continue to be worn in crowded enclosed spaces.

But individual workplaces and individual transport bodies will be left to make their own decision to adopt face-masks as a requirement of entry or for staff.

The advice for inside the Commons chamber makes clear that from next Monday MPs will be able to sit normally once more, although they will be encouraged to wear masks when not speaking.

“Wearing face coverings will be encouraged for all those in the Chamber, although not mandatory,” it states.

“Ticks and crosses on benches will be removed – and prayer cards will be back in use...Barriers at the end of the aisles will be removed.”

The hybrid model of working, using remote video links as well as in-chamber speeches, will continue. Proxy voting will remain in place too.

“Perspex screens and stickers on the floors will remain until they can be removed over recess.”

The letter from the Speaker, which says that the House of Commons Commission met on Monday and agreed the new rules, also says staff who work remotely will be encouraged to keep doing so until September when MPs return from their summer break.

“As we approach Step 4, the Commission recognises the strength of feeling and different views of everyone in our community,” the email said.

“The success of the vaccination programme gives us the opportunity to respond and manage the risk of Covid, in ways that allows us to return the proper functioning of the House.

“Levels of community transmission across the country, including in London, remain high, so we will maintain enhanced cleaning regimes across the estate and encourage Members to take personal responsibility for keeping themselves safe.

“The risk should however reduce further once everyone on the estate has been able to receive the full vaccination course.

“Until we reach this point at the start of September and while cases remain high, we will continue to take proportionate measures on the estate, including the use of face coverings.

“House staff and Members’ staff who are currently working remotely, will be encouraged to continue doing so until September.”

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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