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Business of the House

Part of Transport – in the House of Commons at 10:32 am on 12th March 2020.

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Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 10:32 am, 12th March 2020

I will deal with the second half of the hon. Gentleman’s question first, because this is an area where we want to have as much cross-party support as possible. It is of fundamental importance that we keep this place open, but it is also important that we are treated, and we treat ourselves, in the same way as the rest of the country, and that we go ahead at the same pace as the rest of the country. There should not be a difference in how Parliament is behaving from the advice that is being given to our constituents. That is important; we should not seek to be a special case for ourselves. After the Commission meeting yesterday, I went into the Division Lobby with the expert who had presented to us from Public Health England, and his view, which I am allowed to share with the House, is that the Division Lobby is not a high risk and the only step he would recommend is that we open the windows, because a flow of air would be beneficial. On the basis that the Division Lobby is not high-risk, making major changes to the way we operate would not be the right response, but we wait upon the medical and scientific advice being given to us by the Government and if that changes, we will of course consider whether any procedural changes need to be made. Currently, that is not the case. On those who self-isolate, it will be better to use the pairing system than to try to introduce other measures, partly so that people who are self-isolating or who have coronavirus may maintain patient confidentiality. Some people who may be affected may not want everybody to know, and if we introduce novel methods, that confidentiality may be harder to maintain.

I come to the hon. Gentleman’s point about the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs. He was right to say that it would be wrong if he thought that I had implied that the Scottish National party Members had talked out the establishment of the Committee. I made it clear that I thought that they had talked it out. There is no question of my implying it; that was exactly what they did. They talked out the establishment of the Scottish Affairs Committee and the Government are now considering the way forward, including of course the amendments they have tabled. Deliberation will be given to these important matters.