Parliamentary Unions write to Speaker demanding action on masks

19 August 2021

The joint trade unions (Prospect, FDA, PCS, GMB) representing workers in parliament have written to the Speaker demanding he take action on the wearing of masks in Parliament.

House of Parliament

During the recent debate on Afghanistan, the first with a full chamber, the entire Conservative frontbench, most of their backbenchers, and some from other parties refused to wear a mask. This is despite official advice being that masks should be worn in enclosed spaces, and despite Parliament staff being mandated to wear masks.

The letter also requests clarification as to who is actually responsible for the safety of staff in Parliament after the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said it was a matter for Parliamentary authorities. This is at odds with previous statements from the Speaker that “there is no meaningful way to enforce a requirement on Members to wear a face-covering”.

At a press conference on 5th July the Prime Minister said: “I will obviously wear a mask in crowded places … to protect others and as a matter of simple courtesy.”

The letter also highlights very real and immediate concerns about COVID in Parliament with an uptick in the number of security staff testing positive, with all security staff being requested to take a COVID test and wear a mask at all times.

Unions have asked when parliamentary authorities were made aware of this uptick and if it was before the Afghanistan debate, why nobody was informed of the apparent increased risk.
General Secretary of Prospect Mike Clancy said:

“The attempt by the prime minister’s spokesperson yesterday to claim that the parliamentary authorities, and not individual MPs, are responsible for masks in the chamber was deliberately misleading and outrageous.

“The Speaker has made it abundantly clear that he expects MPs to wear masks, and Prospect has written to all MPs asking them to take this basic step to protect staff, a step that the PM himself described as ‘simple courtesy’ only last month.

“Unions will not stand by while staff are put at risk by reckless politicians and following this shameful episode we are once again asking the Speaker to take a tougher line with MPs when parliament returns next month.”

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