It’s your duty! Jacob Rees-Mogg snaps at SNP’s virtual Parliament demands

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The demand comes as London entered Tier Two restrictions today which bans people from mixing with other households indoors. SNP MP and Shadow House of Commons Leader Tommy Sheppard hit out at Mr Mogg claiming he should do the “right thing” in the middle of a global pandemic.

Mr Sheppard and fellow opposition politicians called for a return to the “hybrid” proceedings that allowed extensive virtual participation during the height of the crisis.

But the House of Commons leader said MPs have a “duty” to attend Parliament.

He added on Twitter: “Laws need to be explained and challenged as they are being introduced but this cannot happen in a virtual Commons.

“A mere succession of statements of views does not constitute scrutiny”.

In a statement, he added: “It is unquestionably the case that democratic scrutiny is essential even during a pandemic.

“We have to be here holding the government to account…so our constituents are represented thoroughly.

“We have a personal responsibility, we have a duty to legislate, we have a duty to be here.

“We have to show the way and to suggest that democratic accountability is not an essential service seems to mean offence to democracy.”

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Virginia Crosbie, Tory Ynys Môn MP agreed and added: “We sat during the war.

“We must sit now at this the most important time for this country.”

The virtual Parliament introduced in April, which ended in June, allowed MPs to vote remotely.

But under existing arrangements, MP numbers in the chamber are limited to 50 to comply with social distancing rules.

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More of them can contribute via Zoom although these arrangements are only in place for certain parts of the Commons business and not main debates on legislation.

They also cannot vote without attending in person.

Mr Sheppard said: “We are in the middle of a global health pandemic, and as coronavirus cases rise and further restrictions are put in place, it’s clear that the Tory government must do the right thing and strengthen virtual proceedings in Parliament.

“Doing so would allow MPs and staff to lead by example and follow public health guidance in cases where they can work remotely and still allow constituents across the country to be represented at this crucial time.

“The Tory government must do the right thing and strengthen digital platforms to allow for fully virtual sessions of Parliament to stem the spread of this deadly virus.”

Tory Sir Bernard Jenkin, chair of the powerful Commons liaison committee, said other select committee chairs had asked him to press for a resumption of the virtual Parliament.

He wrote: “As more areas come under greater restrictions to control the spread of Covid-19, it will become increasingly difficult for the public to understand why members are still required to travel to and from London in order to represent them.

“Hybrid proceedings have their own limitations, but they have been shown to work and to allow members from across the UK to participate without risking further spread of the virus.”

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