MPs told to stay away from Boris Johnson’s PMQs session

PUBLISHED: 11:55 18 March 2020 | UPDATED: 11:55 18 March 2020

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street as he attends PMQs at the House of Commons. Photo: Alberto Pezzali/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street as he attends PMQs at the House of Commons. Photo: Alberto Pezzali/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Alberto Pezzali/NurPhoto

MPs have been told to stay away from Prime Minister’s Questions unless they are expected to be called to quiz Boris Johnson.

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Conservative and Labour whips are understood to have told their MPs not to attend the chamber unless they have a question listed on the order paper.

The move comes after MPs expressed unease about parliament continuing to function as normal during the coronavirus crisis despite the official advice on social distancing.

Mother of the House Harriet Harman criticised the “packed back benches” and a “bustling tea room” at a time when members of the public were being urged to work from home and avoid pubs and restaurants.

The veteran Labour MP said the situation was setting a bad example to the country.

She suggested that a process of “streamlined online accountability” could be a replacement for hundreds of MPs packing into the chamber.

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Fellow Labour MP Lucy Powell said: “We should be practising what we are preaching.

“MPs sitting cheek by jowl all day, heading back off around the country, isn’t good.”


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In the Lords, elderly peers have been told it is not their “duty” to attend parliament during the crisis.

The Lord Speaker, Lord Fowler, said that as parliamentarians it was their duty to show leadership and “heed the advice of public health experts”.

“Parliament will continue to sit. That is important. But the way we operate will have to change,” Lord Fowler said.

So far, two MPs have confirmed positive tests for the coronavirus, but more are self-isolating, including cabinet minister Oliver Dowden.

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