Tory MPs have criticised the arrangements in the House of Commons which prevent MPs from packing out the chamber during business, after it was announced it will all continue until November 3.
Backbencher David Davis branded the Commons the ‘weakest House of Commons that I have ever seen’ as he criticised Jacob Rees-Mogg for proposing an extension, despite being a ‘champion of the backbenchers’.
The MP for Haltemprice and Howden called the mix of virtual and physical appearances from MPs ‘sub-optimal’ and the ‘worst of all worlds’.
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He explained: ‘This is the weakest House of Commons that I have ever seen. It does not do its job. The House of Commons, at its best, is far greater than the sum of its parts. It is an organic entity that reflects our constituents’ interests and pushes the government to do better, govern better and make the right decisions first time, not after several preliminary attempts.
‘It has been bled dry — I am being as delicate as I can about what others would call U-turns — and it gives ministers a pathetically easy time. That is actually not a benefit to ministers.’
He added the country faced three important decisions and without a full house would not be fully representative of opinions.
‘Decisions on the recovery of the economy will be critical before the end of October. That is when the various funding schemes run out and we face the brick wall in our economic future. We have Brexit still coming, and October will be the key month there — that is when the rubber is going to hit the road. And of course there is covid-19 running into winter; again, October will be the key time.’
His calls were backed by Desmond Swayne, who claimed ‘that in the last two weeks of July five times more people died of seasonal flu, outside the season than of covid-19’.
He added: ‘When we had Hong Kong flu, it carried off 80,000 people. Did we behave in this ridiculous way?’
But Rees-Mogg told MPs: ‘I absolutely accept, are less exciting than they normally would be. But it does not mean there is no holding to account. It does not mean there is no representation of our constituents.’
Boris Johnson has urged MPs to lead from the front on the return to workplaces, after saying that he wants all MPs to be back ‘by the end of 2020’.
Johnson, according to reports in The Times and The Daily Telegraph, spoke of the importance of returning to workplaces to Conservative backbenchers as the country seeks to strike a balance between public and economic health.
The Telegraph reported the launch of a public information campaign pushing for home working to be curtailed has been put back.
It was due to begin this week but the paper reported it would start next week at the earliest, suggesting the Cabinet Office wanted more civil servants back to their desks before urging the rest of the country to return.