Yesterday the Downing Street daily briefing was led by Grant Shapps and he made some very clear statements regarding the basis on which travel and working arrangements must be adopted to help keep COVID-19 at bay for as many people as possible. These were very clear and if they are to be taken seriously across the nation, it is vital that our Parliament must listen to him and then adopt his call as a matter of urgency. His words are clearly at odds with some of the recent decisions by himself and his colleagues but he is facing the nation and making some very real calls. The question is will Parliament have the guts to listen to him and reverse their recent decisions so they can adopt his requests or will they act as if they are not part of the rest of our nation? These are the words he expressed very clearly:
“I’m just going to say this. If you can work from home, you should continue to do so. If you can-not work from home you should try to avoid public transport. If you must use public transport you should travel at quieter times of day and if you are an employer you should do everything in your power to prevent staff from travelling unless its absolutely vital and please do allow staff to travel at quieter times….Avoiding gatherings of more than six people including to protest…. Don’t attend mass gatherings”
It was very evident back in May that the Hybrid Parliament was working reasonably well and its only limitation was the number of hours it was operating. However it was including far more MPs in debates and in voting than is the case at present and yet it was also dramatically reducing the number of MPs who were travelling by public transport to the Houses of Parliament. Currently the vast majority are forced to travel to Westminster simply to vote on our behalf and yet only 50 out of potentially 650 can participate at any debate due to the size of the Chamber. Clearly 50 is many more than the six people that Shapps was referring to last night. However when they vote it is the equivalent of a mass gathering as all of them must stand in a long queue. It is vital that they return to the Hybrid arrangements which will send a clear message to all of us and by allowing them all to vote using their phone apps, all 650 MPs will be able to vote, not just those who are able to travel to Westminster.