A former Tory minister has attacked Jacob Rees-Mogg over claims that MPs working from home were “shirking” their duties.
Tracey Crouch, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in June, suggested that measures Rees-Mogg imposed prohibiting MPs from voting remotely meant parliamentarians like her were not able to participate in crucial divisions.
She said: “(Rees-Mogg) will be aware there is a debate in Westminster Hall today on breast cancer which, because of his ruling, some of us with real and current life experience of the disease are disappointingly unable to participate in.
“Now, while I respect (Rees-Mogg’s) commitment to traditional parliamentary procedures, I’m sure if he was on the backbenches and not the fine specimen of health and fitness he clearly is, he would be arguing forcefully for members to be able to contribute more often in proceedings by modern technology.
“Perhaps even currying favour with you, Mr Speaker (Sir Lindsay Hoyle) by suggesting that not every contribution to a debate requires an intervention. Given that hybrid proceedings have been extended, would he please stop thinking those of us at home are shirking our duties, in fact quite the opposite, and urgently reconsider virtual participation, even if just for general backbench and Westminster Hall debates.”
Responding to Crouch, Rees-Mogg said: “I think the point with Westminster Hall is that that was brought back at a point at which the broadcasting facilities were already being fully utilised, so it wasn’t an issue then of whether we wanted to do it or not, it simply wasn’t an option, and the demand to bring back Westminster Hall was great across all parts of the House.
“But members who are shielding, who are seriously, critically vulnerable, are able to participate in many aspects of the House’s business. They are able to participate in interrogative sessions such as this one, they are able to vote by proxy, they are able to participate in select committees. But we do have to get a balance between the needs of honourable members and the needs of the House as a whole to proceed with its business.”