Budget 2021: Boris Johnson leads cabinet ministers in return of mask-wearing in House of Commons

·2 min read

Boris Johnson has led members of his cabinet in wearing masks in the House of Commons as top Conservatives returned to donning face coverings in parliament.

During both prime minister's questions and Chancellor Rishi Sunak's budget on Wednesday, the majority of the Tory front bench wore face masks as they listened to the Commons exchanges.

It marked a contrast to last week when, as the Commons returned from its recess for party conferences, Mr Johnson - like many Conservative MPs and ministers - did not wear a mask in the Commons chamber.

On Tuesday, Commons' authorities ordered staff, contractors and visitors to wear face coverings while on the parliamentary estate due to rising COVID cases.

But they said they could not compel MPs to do the same as they are not deemed to be parliament employees.

The government's coronavirus guidance is currently for people to wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces.

Cabinet ministers had previously been at odds on the issue of mask-wearing, with Health Secretary Sajid Javid having urged his fellow Conservative MPs to wear masks in the crowded Commons chamber.

But Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Commons, last week suggested Tory MPs do not need to wear masks in parliament because they "know each other".

Mr Rees-Mogg appeared to be an exception on the Conservative front bench during this Wednesday's PMQs and budget by not wearing a mask.

Former cabinet minister Robert Jenrick had predicted a change in mask-wearing from Conservative MPs following the rule change for parliamentary staff.

"It doesn't seem right to me that there's one rule for everyone else who works in the building but not for MPs," he told Sky News on Wednesday morning.

"So I think we will have to change our behaviour accordingly. I think we'll all have to consider a mask in the coming days."

Some have pointed to a contrast in the popularity of mask-wearing on Conservative benches in the Commons compared to Labour benches.

There was little to no mask-wearing at either the Conservative or Labour party conferences in recent weeks.

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