Covid-19: Access to House of Commons

House of Commons Commission – in the House of Commons on 19th March 2020.

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Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

To ask the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire, representing the House of Commons Commission, whether the Commission plans to further restrict access to the House of Commons in response to the outbreak of covid-19.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

The control of access to the House of Commons is vested in you, Mr Speaker, and not the commission. Mr Speaker announced additional access restrictions on Monday 16 March, following the statement by the Prime Minister to prevent the risk of exposure to coronavirus. This includes restricting access to passholders and to those attending for business reasons, such as witnesses to Committees. Those measures were implemented with immediate effect. Updates on Tuesday and yesterday outline further measures to prevent the risk of exposure to covid-19, including stopping all non-essential access to the estate, and from today closure of several search and screen points around the estate.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

I tabled this question when there were rumours that Parliament would be closed and that we might not be invited back after the recess. Things have now moved rapidly beyond that, and we have to appreciate the members of staff who support us in keeping this place open so that we can do the vital job of holding the Government to account during this crucial period. May I invite the Minister to pay tribute to those staff who support us?

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

It is, in fact, me who will be invited to congratulate the staff around the estate. Every effort possible is taking place to ensure that staff are kept safe and that their exposure to risk is as minimal as possible. The hon. Gentleman is right to identify that every effort will be made to keep this place open so that we can fulfil our democratic obligations, but that will always be done with the safety of all who use this estate in mind, and will constantly be under review.