Jacob Rees-Mogg backs MPs refusing to wear masks in crowded chamber

·3-min read
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during the debate on the situation in Afghanistan in the House of Commons on 18 August. (PA)
Prime minister Boris Johnson speaking during the debate on the situation in Afghanistan in the House of Commons on 18 August. (PA)

Jacob Rees-Mogg has defended MPs who choose not to wear a mask in the House of Commons, saying people should be right to choose and we should not "always be told what to do by politicians".

The Commons leader was answering a question asked by SNP MP Pete Wishart about why the opposition side of the benches are often full of people wearing masks, while the side where the Tories sit does not.

Read more: Moment Jacob Rees-Mogg waves face mask in the air but refuses to wear it

Jacob Rees Mogg defended MPs right to choose whether to wear a face mask or not. (PA)
Jacob Rees-Mogg defended MPs right to choose whether to wear a face mask or not. (PA)

Rees-Mogg said the government guidance was "completely clear" on when people should wear a face mask and when they shouldn't.

He said the advice is people may want to wear one when they are in a crowded place with people they do not normally meet. 

Members of the opposition during a debate on Afghanistan on 6 September.
Members of the opposition during a debate on Afghanistan on 6 September. (PA)

He then added "we are not in a crowded space with people we do not normally meet", while gesturing to the mostly empty House of Commons.

There have been numerous instances in recent weeks where the Commons has been packed with MPs and many Conservatives have been seen not wearing masks.

He said: "People are right to make a judgment for themselves as to whether they will wear a face mask or not."

Read more: Around 20% of home care staff ‘could leave if Covid jabs become mandatory’

MPs in the House of Commons debating the increase in National Insurance on 7 September. (PA)
MPs in the House of Commons debating the increase in National Insurance on 7 September. (PA)

He said he would wear a face mask in the right situation and said he had worn one when he went to see the crowded Thomas Becket exhibition at the British Museum, but added it was "perfectly reasonable to not wear a mask in this chamber".

Rees-Mogg concluded with: "I think we should allow people to make choices for themselves. 

:I don't think we should always be told what to do by politicians and allowing freedom and allowing liberty and encouraging freedom and getting back to normal in a society that is primarily double vaccinated seems to me extremely sensible."

Watch: COVID-19: What are the rules on wearing face masks in England

The issue of masks in the Commons has become even more contentious recently after Rees Mogg, as leader of the Commons, decided to bring an end to remote sessions.

This means clinically vulnerable MPs now have to come into the Commons to speak and may face a situation where many politicians are not wearing masks.

The general secretary of the FDA civil service union has called on MPs to "demonstrate you care".

He said: "The speaker has strongly advised masks should be worn in the chamber and the government's general advice is to wear masks in enclosed spaces."

Health secretary Sajid Javid, home secretary Priti Patel and foreign secretary Dominic Raab have all been seen in the Commons recently not wearing a mask.

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