James Sunderland highlights the necessity of covid-19 safety measures in Parliament and MP’s responsibility to set an example.
Mr Speaker, you will be the first to acknowledge that life here in Westminster has been a bit different for the past few months. Our meetings are virtual; Members are asked by well-meaning members of staff to move their chairs or simply to move on; and of course face masks are now part of our dress code. Does my right hon. Friend agree that these measures are necessary to keep us safe, not least from ourselves, and that Parliament has a clear responsibility to set the right example?
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for that really important question. We do have an obligation to lead by example. I will not begin to pretend that I like wearing a face mask, but, under your guidance, Mr Speaker, I have taken to wearing one when walking about the Palace, partly because we all have a duty as Members of Parliament to set a lead and an example and partly because it may have a benefit and stop the spread of the disease, in which we all share a responsibility.
I am grateful that my hon. Friend mentions staff asking Members to move apart and observe social distancing. I would encourage everybody to recognise that this is done in a spirit of good will and to help us and keep us all in accordance with the rules. Please bear with members of staff when they do this. They are not doing it because they enjoy being officious; they are doing it because they have been asked to by Mr Speaker, by me and by my right hon.—the right hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz). I was about to call her my right hon. Friend; in this context, we are all working together. The Commission is very keen that people should observe the rules. This House has done such good work to make this a covid-secure environment. We all have our part to play. We have to lead by example by being here, but while we are here, we must follow the rules.