More Tory MPs wearing masks in Commons as concerns rise over Covid outbreak

2 November 2021, 18:09 | Updated: 2 November 2021, 18:29

More Tory MPs are noticeably wearing masks in the Commons having previously refused
More Tory MPs are noticeably wearing masks in the Commons having previously refused. Picture: UK Parliament/Alamy

By Patrick Grafton-Green

More Conservative MPs appear to be wearing face masks in the House of Commons amid concerns over rising cases in Parliament.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

The majority of Tory MPs have refused to don a mask in the chamber since the summer, while most MPs on the Opposition benches have continued to wear them.

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said the "convivial, fraternal spirit" among Conservatives meant they did not need to mask up because the advice to wear a covering applies in crowded spaces with people you do not normally mix with.

READ MORE: Face masks made mandatory again in Parliament - for everyone except MPs

READ MORE: Unvaccinated people 32 times more likely to die with Covid-19, study suggests

Last week he again defended not wearing a face mask by arguing regular testing shows he is not "spewing Covid" in the chamber.

However, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) today determined the risk of transmission of Covid-19 on the parliamentary estate has increased.

Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle warned that tougher restrictions could be imposed in Parliament if cases continue to rise during a "very crucial two weeks".

He said cases have increased among MPs and staff, adding there is a "greater worry than we've had before".

Measures are being stepped up in Parliament to limit the spread of the virus, including the cancellation of non-parliamentary business activity such as tours and banqueting activity at the Palace of Westminster.

Face coverings are already compulsory for staff, contractors and journalists while MPs are now advised to wear them.

Chairs of meetings will be urged to take a stronger role in ensuring compliance with the rules.

New guidance has also urged social distancing, particularly in committees, where health officials believe the risk of transmission is greater.

Sir Lindsay implored MPs to follow tightened Covid-19 measures, telling the Commons: "If we can get through these two weeks, I believe we're then through to next year.

"But it's about this crucial two weeks, as numbers have been rising on both sides of the House and within staff, and unusually the transmission has been on the estate and that's why it's a greater worry than we've had before." 

He added: "I will always put the health and safety of this House first so please help me keep this House open by trying to get through a very crucial two weeks.

"After that I think we'll be in a much safer place, I think we'll be in the right place and the measures have not been stringent, they could have been even more stringent... so please let us just pull and work together, because in the end I don't want to have another Christmas like we've had previously."

A parliamentary spokesman said: "There have been recent increases in Covid-19 across the country and these are also being reflected in Parliament.

"The UK Health Security Agency has determined that the risk of transmission on the parliamentary estate is now greater.

"As a consequence, some further action is being taken to ensure that case numbers do not continue to rise. The measures will be reviewed in two weeks' time."