'Not all of us have live-in nannies': MPs hit out at Jacob Rees-Mogg over call to return to Parliament

Camilla Tominey
Jacob Rees-Mogg prepares to make a statement in the House of Commons last month - Jessica Taylor/AFP
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MPs rounded on Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg on Monday for insisting politicians must "physically" return to Parliament on Tuesday, with one saying: "Not all of us have live-in nannies."

They said the plan to make them vote in person during the coronavirus crisis discriminates against parents and those with pre-existing health conditions. 

There are also fears that, by obeying the two-metre social distancing rule, the queue to vote could be as long as "the line for a roller coaster at Alton Towers".

Mr Rees-Mogg tabled a motion on Monday setting out the requirement preventing virtual voting from resuming. The move is intended to send a signal to the rest of the country to follow MPs' example and return to work.

MPs are due to debate and vote on the plan on Tuesday following the Whitsun half term recess. The Procedure Committee tabled a number of amendments to the motion on Monday night, calling on MPs to be allowed to continue contributing digitally if the pandemic prevents them from attending the Chamber. 

One member of the committee rounded on multi-millionaire Mr Rees-Mogg, whose own nanny Veronica Crook helps care for his six children, saying: "It's alright for Jacob, but a lot of us haven,t got live-in nannies. Most of us are living in the real world."

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Secret trials last month revealed that ditching the traditional Aye and No lobbies and having MPs queue to vote at the despatch box in front of either the Government or opposition benches could take up to three hours.

One MP likened the new voting system to "lining up for a rollercoaster at Alton Towers".

The MP said the new plans did not account for colleagues whose children were schooled in their constituencies or parents of children who were not in the Reception, Year One and Year Six groups allowed back into the classroom on Monday.

"The Leader of the House has said that all MPs' children are classed as key workers and therefore should all be back in school – but it doesn't work like that," the MP said. 

"Some children are schooled in London, others are schooled in constituencies. Even if children are back in school, how are MPs suppose to drop them off and collect them if their partners are also back at work? Traditionally, MPs have relied on grandparents, but this is no longer an option for anyone.

"There's an awful lot of complications for MPs who have to live in two places at once."

The Electoral Reform Society has branded the scheme "beyond a farce" amid concerns it will discriminate against shielding politicians.

A spokesman said: "If this goes ahead, it is unacceptable when there is currently a safe, secure and speedy option for voting available –remote/digital voting. MPs have already used it, and it works.

"Since some MPs are shielding and are not safe to travel in person, these plans – if confirmed – pose a real threat for democratic representation and political equality."

Another MP said the new rules could compromise MPs with pre-existing health problems that they had not disclosed to constituents. "These MPs will suddenly find themselves exposed by the fact that they cannot go into the chamber," the MP said.

The Government's motion requires the need for voting in person at the Palace of Westminster, and that MPs must follow Public Health England guidance.

The mechanics of voting would then be left down to the Commons Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, to set out, with MPs having to avoid the narrow division lobbies.

He has described a single file of MPs snaking through Parliament as a "supermarket queue" that will lead through the centre of the chamber and to the despatch box.