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Rees-Mogg: Labour MPs could avoid face masks in Commons 'if they worked harder'
16 September 2021, 16:57 | Updated: 16 September 2021, 16:58
Jacob Rees-Mogg has hit out at opposition MPs by saying they could avoid wearing face masks in the Commons like the Tories if they "worked harder" by meeting each other more.
The leader of the house responded to criticism about Tory MPs appearing in a packed Commons chamber during Prime Minister's Question without wearing masks - the day after the government urged people to wear them in crowded places as part of its winter plan.
Speaking at the Commons on Thursday, Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) MP Pete Wishart said it was "getting beyond a joke".
He said: "The scenes from a packed PMQs yesterday were simply a disgrace, with barely a face mask on a Tory mush (face).
"It seems like the Tories have absolutely no regard whatsoever about the safety of their colleagues and the staff who are here to support them and help us."
He said the government's own advice states: "wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed settings where you come into contact with people you don't normally meet".
Mr Rees-Mogg hit back, accusing opposition MPs of not attending Parliament regularly enough to avoid the need for masks.
He said face masks are "not mandatory" for those in the Commons under the government's guidance.
"If you are in a crowded indoor space where you come into contact with people you don't normally meet, wearing a face covering can help reduce the spread of Covid.
"Is it not interesting that he, and perhaps this applies to the nationalists generally, do not normally meet other MPs? Perhaps, this is because they are not very assiduous in their attendance in the House of Commons?
"And if they came a bit more, they worked a bit harder, if they put their elbows to the grindstone, wherever you put your elbows, elbows to the wheel, they might not need to wear face coverings either because they would meet members of Parliament more regularly."
The criticisms came after pictures appeared of ministers not wearing face masks during a Cabinet meeting.
The picture was taken on the same day the government set out how it will fight Covid through winter, with the plan focusing on vaccines, with new advice on face coverings and indoor gatherings.
The Covid winter plan sets out options for either a best or worst case scenario for England, depending on developments with the virus.
The intention is to find the best way to help the country live with Covid without having to introduce social and economic restrictions, Mr Javid explained.