Earlier this week a couple of senior Parliamentary people referred to the wearing of face masks in the House of Commons. This followed the call at the beginning of the return to Parliament this year from the Speaker of the House of Commons. Sir Lindsay suggested the exception should be when MPs are called to speak. People on the parliamentary estate have been encouraged to wear masks in recent months, although the Speaker’s words go a step further in pressing MPs to wear a face-covering in the chamber. Sadly one of the references this week was to how wearing face masks does enable some MPs to make offensive or critical comments behind their visual barrier and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons expressed that she is unable to know who has done so. Of course one of the options for the House of Commons to consider adopting would be a clear face mask which is the approach that the deaf community are calling for in any case. Indeed the MP for Stretford and Urmston in Greater Manchester, Kate Green who was the Shadow Minister of Disability from 2013 to 2015 appears in this photograph wearing a mask that would be appropriate for deaf people so they could read lips but it would also enable the Speaker of the House of Commons to see who was shouting abusively. Of course there is also a very strong call for MPs to stop abusing other MPs who represent people in our nation. This is particularly important when the people who are speaking officially are doing so through a camera in their office and via screens in the House of Chamber. However stopping abusive comments may have to become a secondary issue as it has been on the agenda for a long time and is some distance from being resolved.
On the 20th January Eleanor Laing stated:
Order. We cannot have Members sitting here in the Chamber—under the cover of masks, so I cannot see their mouths moving—making comments about things that people are saying virtually. It just does not work and, quite frankly, it is not fair. We really must watch the level of behaviour while we are trying to balance this difficult situation in the Chamber.
The following day Jacob Rees Mogg was speaking about British Purchasing and stated:
Madam Deputy Speaker, normally it would be disorderly to have a prop, but on this occasion I have one that is a face mask, and as face masks are so strongly encouraged in the Chamber, I hope you will allow me a semi-prop face mask.
So it is clear that wearing masks as called for by Lindsay Hoyle is now starting to take place but perhaps we need the House of Commons to promote clear and visual masks such as the one that Kate Green is wearing above.