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House of Commons Chamber: Coronavirus

Question for Leader of the House

UIN 33278, tabled on 14 July 2021

To ask the Leader of the House, if he will take steps to ensure that hon. Members will be able to participate in proceedings in a fully socially distanced area of the Chamber in which hon. Members will also be required to wear face coverings after 19 July 2021.

Answered on

21 July 2021

On Monday 19 July 2021, the majority of legal restrictions in England were removed and people are now expected to protect themselves and others through informed choice. Guidance on social distancing and mask wearing in the House of Commons are matters for the House authorities and the Commission to agree, rather than the Government and Mr Speaker has written to Members to encourage them to wear a face covering when in the Chamber. Prayer cards to reserve seats have also been reinstated, Erskine May part one, paragraph 6.51 states:

In the Commons no place is allotted to any Member, but by custom the front bench on the right hand of the Chair (called the Treasury bench or government front bench) is appropriated for the members of the administration. The front bench on the opposite side, though other Members occasionally sit there, is reserved by convention for the leading members of the Opposition. It is not uncommon for senior Members who are in the habit of attending in one place to be allowed to occupy it as a matter of courtesy.

Members who have no such claim to a seat must be present at prayers if they wish to secure the right to a particular seat until the rising of the House (Standing Order Nos 7 and 8). Members may leave cards upon seats to indicate that they intend to attend prayers (and so secure seats for the remainder of the sitting). These ‘prayer cards’ are dated and must be obtained personally by the Member who wishes to use them from an attendant who is on duty in the House for that purpose from 8 am until the House meets.

The House has already agreed that the arrangements for proxy voting and virtual participation in the Chamber, Westminster Hall and committees should remain in place until the House rises for the summer recess.