MPs should fully return to the House of Commons no later than mid-June, a senior minister has suggested.
Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg noted nightclubs are due to reopen from June 21 if all goes to plan, adding to Sir Lindsay Hoyle: “We can’t be behind nightclubs, Mr Speaker?”
He also insisted the Commons must return to being a “proper chamber” and he hoped this would be in line with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s wider road map to unlock the country.
Speaker Sir Lindsay told MPs he will be presenting his own road map for the Commons at a meeting of the House of Commons Commission next week, and denied he wanted the full reopening delayed until September.
The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in social distancing measures limiting attendance on the floor of the Commons chamber to 50 MPs, with many more contributing to proceedings via Zoom.
Addressing the chamber, Conservative MP Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire) said the Government’s road map is “slightly cautious” and compared the Commons to a “ghost town”.
She added: “Can I be reassured by the Leader of the House that the House of Commons will go no slower than the road map out of lockdown that the public are going to have to follow, because if we do we’ll look completely out-of-touch?”
Mr Rees-Mogg said MPs have a constitutional right to access Parliament, adding: “I think as the restrictions are being lifted members may feel entitled, may desire, may want to exercise that right.
“But I also agree with her point that we should go no slower than the country at large.
“It seems to me that if nightclubs are opening on June 21 – which I think are more (Ms Latham’s) scene than they are mine, perhaps we should go there together – if they’re open then for heaven’s sake the House of Commons should be open properly.
“We can’t be behind nightclubs, Mr Speaker?”
Sir Lindsay added: “Nobody is stopping MPs from coming. What we’re saying is let’s do the right thing by each other, nothing else.
“(Ms Latham) may have thought I only want to reopen in September, I want to reassure her that is definitely not the case, hence why I’m coming forward with a road map to the commission to make things happens absolutely in line with what’s going on.”
Earlier, Mr Rees-Mogg said: “We need to get back to normal, we need to get back to the chamber being full and bustling, and ministers being held to account.
“Debates with full interventions are much better than debates that are a series of monologues read out, pay no attention to what has been said beforehand and people just fill the airwaves for three minutes.
“We want to get back to being a proper chamber and I hope we can do so in line with the general road map.”
SNP chief whip Patrick Grady warned that the return of MPs to Parliament must not be “a big bang moment”.
He said capacity in the chamber should be increased gradually as restrictions are lifted, to “instil confidence” in everyone working on the parliamentary estate.
Representing the House of Commons Commission, Conservative MP Sir Charles Walker said the full physical return of MPs will be done “in as safe a way as possible”.