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Commons speaker calls for daily Covid-19 testing for MPs
6 September 2020, 07:20 | Updated: 6 September 2020, 07:34
Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has said he wants MPs to be tested every day to allow packed scenes in the Commons to return.
There are currently strict rules in force in Parliament to prevent the spread of Covid-19, with the number of people allowed in both chambers limited to allow for social distancing of two metres, leading some senior politicians to claim the Commons is missing its usual spark.
Sir Lindsay said he and Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg had ruled out the use of masks, which would allow gaps between MPs to be lowered to one metre, but that he had lobbied for daily testing for elected representatives in a bid to pave the way for more participation in debates.
The comments came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson reportedly told Tory backbenchers this week he wanted to see Parliament "back to normal" by Christmas.
Sir Lindsay said: "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.
"I'll be quite honest with you, I've made approaches to the NHS 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."
But he said Mr Rees-Mogg had concurred that asking MPs to wear a mask while on the green benches "really wouldn't work" as it would make recognition more difficult and be an obstacle to making speeches.
The former Labour MP, when asked about Mr Johnson's desire to see Parliament return to its pre-Covid ways by the end of the year, said he wanted to see it happen but vowed not to "compromise health and safety".
"We are a Covid-secure workplace - if we were to lose that status, the game is over," he told the radio station.
"It's about working in an efficient way. If people don't need to be here, why would we have them here."
The Speaker also admitted Tory leader Mr Johnson's line of attack on Labour's Sir Keir Starmer at Prime Minister's Questions this week had made him feel uncomfortable.
The Prime Minister accused Sir Keir of being a "leader of the Opposition who supported an IRA-condoning politician" - a reference to Jeremy Corbyn's past campaigning - but Sir Lindsay intervened, calling on Mr Johnson to "try to answer the questions that have been put" to him.
The 63-year-old said: "To make accusations of people is not a good way forward. The chamber sets the tone, and that was not a good tone I wanted to see.
"To accuse somebody of basically being a supporter of the IRA, someone who had actually prosecuted the IRA, was touching a nerve of something I didn't quite like.
"I wasn't comfortable with it. If I'm not comfortable with it, how is the person who was receiving it? We've got to look at it in that way."