Speaker of House of Commons wants daily COVID-19 tests for UK parliamentarians

By: |
September 6, 2020 5:43 PM

The pandemic has prompted some of the biggest changes to British parliamentary procedure in centuries and many feel the subdued atmosphere with so many of them working remotely.

Under current social distancing rules in place, the number of people allowed in both the House of Commons and Lords is strictly limited to control the spread of coronavirus (Reuters file image)

The Speaker of the House of Commons on Sunday called for daily COVID-19 tests on lawmakers in order for Parliament to resume its sessions with a full House. Sir Lindsay Hoyle said he and the Leader of the Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, had ruled out the use of face masks during sessions to further cut down on the social distancing requirements within the Commons but he was keen to see daily tests as a means of encouraging greater participation in person by members of Parliament (MPs).

Under current social distancing rules in place, the number of people allowed in both the House of Commons and Lords is strictly limited to control the spread of coronavirus, with some members joining in sessions remotely via video conference.

“To be quite honest with you, I’d like to do it daily, not weekly. The problem is weekly testing doesn’t tell you anything, Hoyle told Times Radio’ in an interview. I’ll be quite honest with you, I’ve made approaches to the NHS (National Health Service) and government to say, look, why can’t we have a testing system? What we would need is a quick turnaround of tests in order that we can get MPs in. We’re looking at it. I personally would have had the heat screening equipment in to test temperatures,” he said.

The Speaker said it had been agreed that asking MPs to wear a mask while on the benches “really wouldn’t work” as it would make recognition more difficult and be an obstacle to making speeches.  UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to be keen for Parliament to return to its pre-COVID packed Houses by the end of the year.

In reference to that timeline, Hoyle said: “We are a Covid-secure workplace if we were to lose that status, the game is over. It’s about working in an efficient way. If people don’t need to be here, why would we have them here.”

The pandemic has prompted some of the biggest changes to British parliamentary procedure in centuries and many feel the subdued atmosphere with so many of them working remotely.

At the end of the summer recess, the autumn session of the Parliament resumed this week within a mixed physical and remote setting in place to ensure parliamentarians can keep two metres apart.

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