Tories accused of 'showing contempt' after MPs abandon Commons during Covid-19 debate

An absence of MPs in the House of Commons chamber

An absence of MPs in the House of Commons chamber - Credit: Alex Davies-Jones/Twitter

Labour has accused the Tories of "showing contempt" for the public after not a single one its backbenchers was present for a debate on coronavirus measures, including the furlough scheme and evictions bans.

Only one minister was present for sections of Wednesday's Opposition Day debate which focused on funding for northern areas under lockdown, replacements for furlough, and help for the self-employed and those facing evictions.

This is a stark contrast to hours earlier when Tory benches were full for Prime Minister's Questions.

Alex Davies-Jones, Labour MP for Pontypridd, took a picture of the empty benches on her phone and tweeted: "Appreciate there are social distancing guidelines in the chamber at the moment, but this is taking it a bit far!

"The Tory minister is sat alone in the chamber right now. Just goes to show how little care the Tories have for seeking financial support for their constituents…"

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Davies-Jones pointed out that "every single available seat on the opposition benches is taken by a Member".

Social distancing rules in the chamber mean that no more than 50 MPs are allowed to attend at once and should be at least two metres apart.

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But having an entire bench empty is extremely uncommon.

Even during Opposition Day debate, Tory backbenchers are expected to fill their side of the chamber to show their greater numbers and make interventions.

The Tories have 364 MPs to Labour’s 201.

A Labour spokesperson said: "Millions of people are back under Covid restrictions because the government can’t get a grip on the virus.

"Yet half way through a vital debate on economic support for jobs and businesses the Tory benches were empty. They’re showing contempt for everyone who needs help to get through this crisis."

The Tories have defended the move blaming Labour for submitting motions too late for MPs to apply for call lists.

Under current rules, names of MPs who want to speak have to be submitted in advance. The former practice of spontaneously catching the speaker’s eye to speak has been suspended.

@GoAlock tweeted: "That’s how seriously they treat such serious subjects."

Lisajane Davies said she had no confidence in the Tories at all. "They cannot even be bothered to show up in the house!" she wrote in a post to members of the media.

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