Rees-Mogg accused of bungling MPs’ return to Parliament

Lewis McKenzie, PA Political Staff

Jacob Rees-Mogg has been accused of forcing MPs to return to Westminster, after bungling a bid to end the hybrid Parliament.

The Commons Leader wrote to MPs on Thursday, informing them he had accepted a request by the Government for a recall next week.

However, shadow Commons leader Valerie Vaz hit out at Mr Rees-Mogg, saying that the move was only taken to correct an earlier “discriminatory” attempt to stop MPs from being able to take part from home.

It comes as Public Health England advised that it would not be safe for MPs to vote in the traditional way of filing into division lobbies, despite measures such as perspex booths being put in place as part of efforts to allow for votes to take place.

In March, Mr Rees-Mogg had said that arrangements would be modified to allow for social distancing, if divisions were to take place.

However, in his letter to MPs he said that the public health advice is now “very different” from what it was then and that the Commons “simply cannot conduct divisions safely via the lobbies”.

The request from the Government to move the sitting to an earlier time came after a lapse in the temporary Standing Orders on hybrid proceedings, meaning that a decision must be made on what form divisions should take.

Mr Rees-Mogg wrote: “Now that I have agreed to a recall on Tuesday, it is for the Government to decide what proposal for voting it wishes to put forward.

“I have been clear to the Government and to opposition parties that I would prefer cross-party agreement to be reached about the way in which the House should conduct its proceedings when the House returns – including on how divisions should take place.

“I have given the Government until Monday morning to table its motion, to maximise the time available for such an agreement to be reached and to provide an opportunity for it to take account of the Procedure Committee.”

Ms Vaz said that Labour “stand ready” to work with the Government and all parties to reach a consensus on the participation of MPs.

She said: “This is the latest example of the Government in chaos.

“Jacob Rees-Mogg tried to abolish the hybrid remote Parliament, which allowed all MPs to take part regardless of their personal circumstances, without any prior notice and against all advice on the last day Parliament met.

“He has bungled it and is now forcing Parliament to return early solely to correct his earlier discriminatory move.

“We welcome Mr Speaker’s statement and stand ready to work with the Government and all parties to reach a consensus that would allow all MPs to participate on equal terms, including voting.”

Responding to the announcement on Twitter, SNP Cabinet Office spokesman Pete Wishart said: “The Government wants us to come back to a Parliament that can’t work.

“An absolute joke.”