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Covid-19: Parliamentary Estate

Volume 676: debated on Tuesday 19 May 2020

The House Service is currently working in conjunction with Public Health England to ensure that we meet the Government guidelines to become a covid-19-secure work- place and to build on our existing measures to ensure that all those working on the estate can do so safely. That is underpinned by the completion of a covid-19 risk assessment, which will be shared by all those working on the estate if the House returns after the Whitsun recess. The successful introduction of those measures will help to reduce the spread of covid-19, supported by those on the estate.

I thank the Commission and, indeed, the staff in Parliament for the work they have done in enabling Members to participate virtually while complying with Government guidelines to stay at home. Of course, returning to normal proceedings would involve not just 650 Members but several thousand staff on the estate, many of whom are currently shielding. As my hon. Friend will know, it is almost impossible to travel more than about 10 metres in Parliament without touching a door handle. So what work is the Commission doing to ensure that both staff and Members stay safe and do not become super-spreaders?

The House is doing everything possible to ensure that we do become a covid-19-secure workplace. But my hon. Friend is right to note that if we do abandon these virtual proceedings tomorrow, it will be necessary for 650 Members to travel from all corners of the United Kingdom to participate in proceedings in an environment that will be very, very challenging in order to ensure that we can maintain social distancing requirements. All I can say, again, is that this not a matter for the Commission—it is a matter for Government, who are driving the “return to this House” agenda. I encourage her to take this up with Ministers to ensure that we do have a safe environment and that we do nothing further to put our constituents at risk.