Face masks become mandatory in the Commons – for everyone except MPs

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Face masks, House of Commons - House of Commons/PA
Face masks, House of Commons - House of Commons/PA

Face coverings have become mandatory for everyone working in the House of Commons – apart from MPs – in new guidance released by Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker.

Sir Lindsay and his team said compulsory masks would "ensure that those on the estate are safe while business is facilitated". People with "legitimate exemptions" will not be required to wear them.

The Commons authorities do not have the power to force MPs to wear masks but can require them for all other staff on the parliamentary estate, including contractors, MPs' researchers, catering and security staff and journalists.

The change to the guidance comes after a debate over mask-wearing in Parliament in which members of the Cabinet disagreed over whether they should be worn.

Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, has said he will wear a mask in the chamber during Wednesday's Budget, when the green benches will be packed with MPs.

Mr Javid has previously suggested that MPs should set an example to the rest of the country by wearing masks in enclosed spaces such as the chamber, saying: "We also have a role to play to set an example as private individuals as well."

But Downing Street insisted mask-wearing was a "personal choice" following the relaxation of restrictions that made them mandatory in some settings.

Recent footage of Commons debates shows most Conservative MPs do not wear masks in the Chamber, whereas Labour and Liberal Democrat members do.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the Commons, said masks were not necessary for Tory MPs because they were well-known to each other. "The advice on crowded spaces is with crowded spaces with people that you don't know. We on this side know each other," he added.

Layla Moran, a Lib Dem MP, said: "The very same day that Sajid Javid was urging the public to take steps to protect themselves against the virus, Conservative MPs were laid across the green benches, maskless and irresponsible."

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