A Labour MP has accused Jacob Rees-Mogg of “gaslighting” fellow parliamentarians in the ongoing row over virtual participation in House of Commons business.
Dawn Butler also said the Houses of Parliament are “full of” COVID-19 and accused Rees-Mogg of putting MPs at risk by not allowing MPs to debate on Zoom.
It came after Rees-Mogg, the leader of the House, announced the government is planning to extend virtual participation in debates to clinically extremely vulnerable MPs.
However, some MPs who, for example, live in the same household as clinically extremely vulnerable people will still not be allowed to contribute virtually and are expected to work in Parliament.
In a debate on Monday, numerous MPs called for virtual proceedings to be available for everyone.
This was rejected by Rees-Mogg, however. He is continuing to insist MPs “are key workers, and we must behave as other key workers” by turning up to work.
It prompted Butler to tell him: “I can’t help but think he is not only gaslighting MPs but gaslighting the whole country.
“I do think the leader is somewhat over-reaching in his suggestion that he should decide who should debate in this House as an MP.
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“Current arrangements are not in the best interests of the House as a whole. I love being in the House of Commons, I love debating, but actually we are in a pandemic at the moment – and actually COVID is asymptomatic.
“This place is full of it whether you like it or not. We are putting 600 people at risk every time we are here.”
Studies have suggested that up to 90% of people with COVID may not show any symptoms.
Rees-Mogg said “sorry if I gave the impression that I will decide who speaks in debates, I certainly don’t do that – that is decided on a daily basis by the speaker”.
He said changes in procedural matters such as virtual contributions to debates are decided by the House – which is made up of a clear majority of Conservative MPs.
During the first lockdown, virtual participation had been allowed until Rees-Mogg dropped it in June.