Parliament has reimposed mandatory face coverings but is unable to force MPs to wear them – and several Tories are still refusing to be drawn on the issue, including the Prime Minister
Boris Johnson faces fresh claims of ‘one rule for them’ after masks were made compulsory for everyone in Parliament – except MPs.
House of Commons officials have decided to reimpose mandatory face coverings for employees, contractors, visitors and the media as cases rise.
But the Commons cannot compel MPs to wear masks as they are not deemed to be Parliament employees.
Instead, Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle will be encouraging them to put one on in the chamber unless they are speaking or are exempt.
It will ramp up questions over whether Boris Johnson will choose to wear a face covering during today’s Budget statement.
Some Tory MPs including Health Secretary Sajid Javid have said they will mask up as the chamber is expected to be packed.
But Downing Street has refused to say whether the Prime Minister will do the same amid an ideological split among Tories.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said “it is a matter for personal judgment”, but refused to say what the PM’s judgement would be.
A Commons spokesman said: “The House’s priority is to ensure that those on the estate are safe while business is facilitated.
“Due to recent increases in Covid-19 across the country, which are also being reflected in Parliament, we have updated our Covid-19 guidance for those working on the estate.
“Face coverings are now mandatory for all staff, contractors and third parties while on the estate, unless there is a legitimate exemption in place.”
Dr David Nabarro, the WHO’s special envoy for Covid-19, said that “everybody” should be wearing masks in close confinement with other people, “including our leaders”.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has already committed to wearing a mask in the Commons when it is packed on Budget day, having urged politicians to lead by example following a recent spike in cases.
But Mr Javid said on Monday that wearing a mask in the crowded chamber is a “personal decision” for ministers and backbenchers.
Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg last week insisted Tories do not need to wear masks in Parliament because with their “convivial, fraternal spirit” they know each other well.