At the end of Parliament last Thursday, Jacob Rees-Mogg published an answer to a very sensible written question that had been submitted by my MP Caroline Lucas. Then two days later the Prime Minister introduced a new upper tier condition without any Parliamentary accountability. In one sense it was very frustrating that the question could not reflect the Tier 4 conditions that are affecting London and a number of other locations. Tier 4 is now even more restrictive for travelling to work and indeed for travelling anywhere than Tier 3 was. A couple of days after the announcement, Kent Online published this piece which was a response to their Kent MPs who are all very angry that their area has now risen to Tier 4 without any opportunity for the MPs let alone the rest of the residents to have any opportunity to challenge the way this has happened and to “hold ministers to account”. So the response from Rees-Mogg which was only three or four days since his response to Caroline Lucas was
The Government will seek to extend remote participation in Commons proceedings as a result of the Tier 4 restrictions in London. I have written to the Commons Procedure Select Committee outlining the Government’s plans to reduce the number of MPs who need to travel to Westminster to take part in debates.
It is deeply disappointing that Rees-Mogg could not have anticipated the changes that were coming and indeed that he could not have considered playing a much more constructive approach even while London and a number of local areas where in Tier 3. We need a much more positive approach for local MPs in each of the regions to be able to meet together at regional settings where they can work together on local issues and then correspond with the Government through video calls using the high quality Council Chamber arrangements that would ensure that every region or sub region would be able to work in a positive way. So here is the question and answer from last Thursday.
CL: To ask the Leader of the House, what steps he plans to take to allow hon. Members to adhere to the Tier 3: Very High Alert Guidance to (a) work from home if possible, (b) avoid travelling outside a Tier 3 area and (c) reduce the number of journeys made wherever possible; what assessment he has made of the effect on the transmission of covid-19 of allowing hon. Members to contribute to debates virtually whilst London is under Tier 3 Guidance; if he will take steps to allow hon. Members to contribute remotely to debates in the House of Commons; and if he will make a statement.
JRM: The Government guidance is clear that you can continue to travel into or out of Local COVID Alert Level: Very High areas, if you need to for work, school, or caring responsibilities, or where doing so is necessary as part of a longer journey. It is the Government’s view that we best serve our constituents when we are in Westminster, carrying out our essential functions. The House authorities have put in place robust and effective measures to ensure that the House of Commons is a covid-secure workplace.
The Government is sympathetic to those Members who are currently unable to participate in some aspects of our proceeding and has worked hard to mitigate that, including a wide scale roll out of proxy voting and providing for remote participation in scrutiny proceedings. The Government also brought forward a motion to enable those Members who are clinically extremely vulnerable to contribute virtually in Chamber debates and it was unfortunate that this was talked out so the House did not make a decision. I will continue to engage with Members on how we best strike the balance between facilitating virtual participation and allowing scrutiny and legislation to continue. As I have always said, the Government continues to keep this matter under review.
So clearly now is the time to change the conditions Jacob Rees Mogg!