In a furious rant addressing the Commons, the leader of the House accused Labour Party MPs of trying to delay legislation being approved by Parliament by fighting for the continuation of a virtual system adopted in an attempt to fight the spreading of coronavirus. Mr Rees-Mogg claimed MPs must return to work as their job is ineffective from work in the proper scrutiny of the Government.
He said: “The Government’s advice is quite clear: work from home if you can.
“And Mr Speaker, as you made clear, many members of the House staff will be able to continue to work from home even with the House of Commons operating in physical form.
“Indeed, very few additional plans will need to be put in place on the premises, members of staff will be able to continue working from home and the overwhelming majority of the House community will be able to continue to work from home, the exception being Members of Parliament themselves.
“Why is that? Because the Government’s advice is if you need to go to work you must go to work.
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“And we’ve seen in this Parliament, in this House today, the ineffectiveness of scrutiny in comparison to what we see when this House is operating in the normal way.
“We have no flexibility of questions, the questions are all listed in advance, the ability for people to come in, to join in the debate.
“There is no cross-cutting of debate, no ability to advance arguments or take them forward. Simply a series of prepared statements made one after another.
“That’s not the House of Commons in its proper duty, in its proper role of scrutiny of the Government.”
He continued: “But then there’s the other side of it. Where are the bill committees?
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“How are bills progressing? What is happening to the legislative agenda that this Government was elected on in December? Or do we just ignore our constituents, ignore the voters and not get on with a proper parliamentary, a proper democratic system?
“The idea that our democratic system is not an essential one, is not the lifeblood of our nation, is not how the Government is held to account in a time of crisis, it’s one that I think is surprising and it’s extraordinary that it should be held by members of the Opposition.
“That they should not wish to be here, challenging the Government, holding them to account, that they wish to hide behind.
“A veneer, a virtual Parliament so that legislation is not progressed with.”
Ahead of his statement in the Commons, opposition MPs lamented the idea and branded it “crazy”.
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A senior Labour official told Politico: “The Government advice is that those people able to work from home should do so.
“Well, we are doing so. It’s not ideal, but it’s working. There is no rationale for this.”
SNP MP for Central Ayrshire and Shadow Secretary of State Health Philippa Whitford also said: “Crazy! House of Commons chamber only allows 50 MPs at safe distance.
“Virtual’ chamber can add 120. No mention of MPs in shielding or vulnerable groups who will be disenfranchised!
“Just remember the packed chamber on budget day.”
Liberal Democrat MP for North East Fife, Wendy Chamberlain also said: “The current advice is that people should work at home if the can – we have proven that MPs can.
“As yet, the government has published no guidance as to how MPs and staff are meant to keep a two metres distance from each other whilst working in parliament.
“Perhaps most worryingly of all, MPs and staff would be further filling up public transport networks and presumably travelling back and forth to communities all over the country.”