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A senior Conservative has accused his own government of planning to “euthanise” vulnerable MPs when parliament is ordered to return next month.
Ahead of a fierce clash in the Commons over the move, Robert Halfon attacked the decision to abandon online voting and participation in debates – even while most Covid-19 restrictions in place.
It comes despite the opposition of Commons staff and other parties and after the Speaker threatened to block any attempt to force MPs to sit closer together.
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Robert Halfon, the education committee chair, who has cerebral palsy, accused ministers of favouring MPs who are “Tarzan-like and able to swing through the chamber, beating your chest”
“If there are MPs who are sick, shielding, or self-isolating, surely it is right to let them continue to vote online, and participate in committees also virtually via Zoom and Microsoft Teams,” he argued.
“Is it really morally just to say in effect to MPs, because you are not Tarzan-like and able to swing through the Chamber, beating your chest shouting to your constituents, ‘Look I am here!’ that you are effectively euthanised from the Commons?
“MPs who are disrupted by this awful pandemic are not just old horses to be sent to the knackers’ yard.”
The criticism comes amid a claim that Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Commons leader, wanted to install supermarket-style screens behind Boris Johnson to bypass social distancing rules in the chamber.
It will fuel a widespread belief that the real motivation for fast-tracking a full return of the Commons is to create a wall of noise – as the prime minister struggles in his weekly jousts with Keir Starmer.
In an article for the ConservativeHome website, Mr Halfon told Mr Mogg: “Encourage MPs to return, absolutely. Go back to the traditions, once we are Covid-free.
“But don’t ignore those affected by coronavirus, who want to be legislators, when the technology makes this possible. Please be generous-spirited.”