11:53 GMT27 September 2020
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    The parliament of United Kingdom has been forced to adopt virtual contributions from elected MPs as the country maintains social distancing measures amid the coronavirus pandemic. As lockdown measures loosen in England, however, the government is eager to see representatives return to Westminster to speed up the legislative process.

    Jacob Rees-Mogg has accused the Labour Party of opposing the return of MPs to parliament in an attempt to "stymie" the government. 

    Speaking on his ConservativeHome show, 'the Moggcast', the Commons Leader said that despite effective work being done during the national lockdown, the ongoing hybrid provisions, which has seen some MPs contribute to Westminister sittings virtually while others physically attend, has limited the ability of legislation to be "scrutinised". 

    “What has been done is remarkable but it simply isn’t a proper Parliament doing its job", he said.
    “Frankly, the opposition like having a hybrid Parliament because what is the opposition there to do? It’s there to stop the Government getting things done".
    “And it was willing to sacrifice a degree of scrutiny to stymie the Government’s programme", he added.

    He said that it would be "unreasonable" for the government to demand pupils to return to school while MPs "do not take the same steps" as teachers.

    Mr Rees-Mogg rebuked claims that the Conservatives wanted to see the return of a physical Parliament in to reinforce Prime Minister Boris Johnson during clashes against Sir Keir Starmer, after a series of taxing exchanges with the new leader of the opposition.

    The comments by the Commons Leader come amid a growing wedge between the devolved powers of the UK. Criticism of the government's attempts to resume parliament to regular physical attendance include accusations that it would in effect be an England-only return as tight lockdown rules in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland remain in place.

    Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said last Wednesday that virtual proceedings "must be allowed to continue" or risk "locking out" the other nations.

    "This is a grave threat to political equality and the principles of parliamentary democracy", he said

    Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle rejected demands by Rees-Mogg for parliament to "set an example" and return to work, threatening last week to suspend the body if debates became too crowded or violated national social distancing guidelines.

    "My priority and the priority of all, I'm sure, is to ensure that those on the estate are safe while business is facilitated", Speak Hoyle said.
    "Nothing in the Leader's announcement changes the position on social distancing in and around the chamber and throughout the parliamentary estate - only changes to the guidance from Public Health England can do that, I think we're all agreed on that".

    The government has said it is keen not to allow virtual parliament to extend beyond the Whitsun recess, which is scheduled to end on 2 June.

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    Tags:
    lockdown, coronavirus, COVID-19, Keir Starmer, Labour Party, Jacob Rees-Mogg
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