Test MPs for Covid-19 every day, says Speaker

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A crowded House of Commons as MPs await the Brexit programme motion voteImage copyright
UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

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Crowded scenes like the ones during Brexit voting could return with regular testing, the Speaker suggested

MPs could be tested daily for coronavirus to allow them to safely fill the chamber of the House of Commons, the Speaker has suggested.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle told Times Radio he had spoken to the NHS and government about getting “a quick turnaround of tests” to allow more MPs in.

But the Speaker said he would not “compromise health and safety”.

MPs wearing masks had been ruled out as it could make it harder for them to be recognised and make speeches, he said.

The pandemic has prompted some of the biggest changes to Parliamentary procedure in centuries, with limited numbers allowed in both chambers so MPs can keep two metres apart.

But some MPs have criticised the subdued atmosphere with so many of them working remotely.

And after Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg scrapped remote voting, there were lengthy queues to cast votes on motions and amendments because it is not considered safe for MPs to crowd into the traditional voting lobbies all at once.

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UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

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Masks for MPs “really wouldn’t work”, said Sir Lindsay Hoyle as he backed daily testing

Asked about the prospect of regularly testing MPs so more of them could safely enter the Commons chamber, Mr Hoyle said: “To be quite honest with you, I’d like to do it daily, not weekly. The problem is weekly testing doesn’t tell you anything.”

He said he had “made approaches” to the NHS and Government to ask, “Why can’t we have a testing system?”

They would need “a quick turnaround of tests” and Commons authorities were “looking at it”.

Sir Lindsay said he agreed with Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg that masks for MPs “really wouldn’t work” as it would be harder to recognise who was speaking and harder to be heard.

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UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

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Social distancing has meant the Commons chamber has been a much quieter place

Asked about reports that Prime Minister Boris Johnson wanted to see Parliament “back to normal” by Christmas, the Speaker said he wanted to make it happen but said he would not risk health and safety.

“We are a Covid-secure workplace – if we were to lose that status, the game is over,” he said.

“It’s about working in an efficient way. If people don’t need to be here, why would we have them here?”

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