Government wants MPs back in the House of Commons after Easter, says Jacob Rees-Mogg
PUBLISHED: 13:52 19 March 2020 | UPDATED: 13:52 19 March 2020
Jacob Rees-Mogg has told MPs the government wants them back in the House of Commons after the Easter recess.
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The Commons leader outlined business for next week, including MPs considering all stages of emergency coronavirus legislation on March 23, and provisional business for March 30 and 31 - at which point the House is expected to rise for recess for three weeks.
He faced calls from the SNP to wind down the Commons next week but he replied by insisting the government wants flexibility in case further emergency legislation needs to be approved.
Rees-Mogg also said it is “very important” that parliament continues to sit when it returns on April 21.
The cabinet minister cast doubt on the suggestion of technology being used to allow MPs to be involved in Commons proceedings without being in the chamber, although such measures are being considered for select committees.
Speaking in the Commons, Rees-Mogg said: “With regard to our return on April 21, it is very important that parliament continues to sit. The position of (the government) is that parliament will continue to sit.
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“I think this is of significance, but we need to be held to account, but we also need to be able to legislate.
“With regard to bills that are currently in committee, we will be able to ensure that those continue in committee as long as the House is sitting.
“We may have to have discussions on precisely how the House operates. [Shadow Commons leader Valerie Vaz] asks about voting arrangements, may I thank the opposition for not calling divisions this week which has been helpful under the current circumstances.
“And I think we need to work closely together to see that the mechanisms we use are effective and actually ensure that we hold the government to account, that we legislate properly, but we will have to look at this and I don’t think it’s right to make immediate decisions from the despatch box now, but let’s see what the situation is when we come back on April 21.”
Earlier, the House of Commons Commission said every effort will be made to keep parliament open throughout the coronavirus outbreak.
Commission member Pete Wishart said the aim will be for parliament to remain open so MPs can fulfil their “democratic obligations” but the safety of all staff “will be constantly under review”.
The SNP MP added there have been “no recent formal discussions” on implementing electronic voting to keep MPs away from the Commons, but “all feasible alternative arrangements would be looked at” if divisions could no longer occur.
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