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Wednesday 20 May 2020

FDA condemns “reckless” decision to return to physical Parliament

In response to Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has today (Wednesday 20 May) made the decision that the government will not renew the standing orders for a hybrid Parliament, FDA Assistant General Secretary Amy Leversidge said:

“It’s unbelievable that this decision has been made with no genuine consultation with unions representing staff in Parliament. Parliamentary staff have worked tirelessly to put in place the hybrid Parliament which has allowed MPs to participate virtually, meaning a return to physical Parliament also contravenes the government’s own guidance to work from home wherever possible.

“We do not accept the Leader of the House’s position that MPs cannot continue to work at home effectively with the virtual Parliament. Indeed, Rees-Mogg has offered no explanation for how a return to physical Parliament will allow for increased participation from MPs, as social distancing rules will still apply in the chamber.

“If he has concerns about the capacity of the virtual Parliament then, in the first instance, Parliament should explore improvements to the virtual proceedings. Instead, the Leader of the House has chucked the baby out with the bathwater and ended the hybrid Parliament without giving any detail about what will replace it.

“Parliament presents an enormous challenge in ensuring social distancing given the unique nature of the building and working practises of Parliamentarians. The House says that Public Health England will assess the Palace of Westminster and give a judgement about whether the House should return – it is reckless for the government to announce an end to the hybrid Parliament before this assessment is complete.

“Vague promises bereft of detail are simply not good enough and today’s announcement will leave many staff working under intense pressure, stress and anxiety at the prospect of preparing for a return to Parliament just seven workings days from now.

“We have made clear to Parliamentary authorities that the standing orders for a hybrid Parliament should be renewed until the House presents a clear plan and evidence that shows the return to a full physical sitting of Parliament can be done safely.”

Notes for editors
1. The FDA is the union for senior managers and professionals in public service, representing more than 18,000 members at grades HEO and above. Membership includes senior civil servants, government policy advisors, prosecutors, diplomats, tax professionals, economists, solicitors and other professionals working across the Government and the NHS.
2. The FDA (formerly the First Division Association) should be referred to simply as "The FDA" and can be described as "the senior public servants' union".
3. The FDA can be found on Twitter @FDA_union. General Secretary Dave Penman tweets as @FDAGenSec.
4. 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
FDA Head of Communications Kay Hender on 07980 700 747 or kay@fda.org.uk
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