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Friday 29 May 2020

FDA and Prospect joint press release: Hybrid Parliament must continue

Last week the government refused to renew the standing order to continue with the hybrid Parliament and Jacob Rees-Mogg reassured the House that a risk assessment had been done. Yet, in the last 24 hours we have heard from Public Health England that it has condemned voting via the division lobbies as not being safe for social distancing.
Following the government’s decision, the FDA and Prospect have sought assurances on how Parliament will monitor and control the numbers of people on site - the most basic starting point for determining how social distancing can be maintained in the workplace. We have been informed that there has been no assessment of the maximum capacity of the estate and there are no means of monitoring or controlling the number of MPs, MPs’ staff or visitors coming onto the estate at any one time, meaning Parliamentary authorities can only react after the event if numbers are too high.
It is clear that the government made the decision not to renew the hybrid Parliament before it had worked out how it could be done safely. This does not follow the government’s own advice to every employer about making workplaces COVID secure before returning.
As we have repeatedly made clear, the only sensible way forward is for the hybrid Parliament to continue, at least until summer recess, so the trade unions, House authorities and parliamentarians have the time to work together to develop a clear plan so that when Parliament returns to full physical proceedings it is safe.
Dave Penman, General Secretary of the FDA said:
“We have been working tirelessly with House authorities on this issue since day one to try and ensure safety in Parliament. It is evident that when Jacob Rees-Mogg stood up in the House and assured Parliament and its staff that safe working arrangements had been put in place, this was simply not the case. Clearly the government is determined for Parliament to return to physical sittings come hell or high water, with fundamental safety issues being left to work out on the hoof.
“Parliamentary authorities can only do so much if the government will not take steps to enforce the most basic of safety requirements for COVID-19: restriction and control of the numbers in confined spaces.”
Garry Graham, Deputy General Secretary of Prospect said:
“Everyone across the UK knows that the only way to maintain social distancing is to monitor and control the numbers in one place - from our local supermarkets to workplaces to public transport – it is the most basic information needed to guarantee safety. If Parliament can’t monitor and control the numbers of people on the estate it cannot guarantee their safety.
“The government are refusing to follow their own advice to every employer in the land. It cannot be one rule for them and another for the rest of the country.
“Staff have worked incredibly hard to put in place the hybrid parliament and there is absolutely no reason why this can’t continue. The safety of both staff and parliamentarians must be the priority.”
Notes for editors
1. For more information contact:
FDA Communications Officer Tommy Newell on 07738 729 145 or tommy@fda.org.uk
FDA Communications Officer Scott Dobson on 07727 869 640 or scott@fda.org.uk
Prospect Media Officer Graham Moonie on 07889 337 719 or graham.moonie@prospect.org.uk
2. The FDA can be found on Twitter @FDA_union. General Secretary Dave Penman tweets as @FDAGenSec.
3. Prospect can be found at www.prospect.org.uk.
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