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Commons Speaker suggests testing MPs for COVID-19 everyday

Commons Speaker suggests testing MPs for COVID-19 everyday

The Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle has suggested that MPs could be tested daily for COVID-19 in order to allow them to safely fill the Commons chamber.

During the pandemic, only limited numbers of members have been allowed in the Commons in order to allow for social distancing. As a result, the atmosphere in the chamber has been notably different at times and often much quieter.

In some sessions of PMQs during the pandemic, the reduced number of members in the chamber has been particularly noticeable, with there not being the usual extent of cheers and support given by backbenchers.

The Commons chamber does not have enough seats for all 650 MPs, meaning that people are often crammed in and left standing for key debates and votes in normal times. 

Speaking to Times Radio, Sir Hoyle said he had spoken to the NHS and the government about getting a testing system in place in Parliament;

"To be quite honest with you, I'd like to do it daily, not weekly. The problem is weekly testing doesn't tell you anything.

"I'll be quite honest with you, I've made approaches to the NHS and Government to say, look, why can't we have a testing system?

"What we would need is a quick turnaround of tests in order that we can get MPs in."

Hoyle said that he wanted to see Parliament return to more of pre-COVID normality, provided it didn't 'compromise' health and safety.

Both Hoyle and the Leader of the Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg have considered that asking MPs to wear masks could cause problems, with it being harder to hear and recognise people that are speaking.

A number of MPs, including the Prime Minister, have caught COVID-19 during the pandemic. The design of the Commons has previously raised fears that the virus could be transmitted quickly in the chamber, with members often packed together. Testing on a regular basis could help to ensure that only COVID-free members are allowed in the chamber.

The regular testing of football players following lockdown last season allowed players to safely play together without the need for social distancing on the pitch. A similar concept could be used in the Commons, with people being allowed to sit next to each other without social distancing, provided they have tested negative for the virus and have no symptoms of it.

It is expected to be a busy few months in Parliament, with plenty of questions expected to be asked about the country's preparedness for the winter months while COVID-19 continues to spread. A variety of other topics including the economy and a potential post-Brexit trade agreement with the EU could also be up for debate. While some feel that the semi-digital model of Parliament with some MPs continuing to work remotely has been successful and that testing should be prioritised elsewhere, some others feel the return of more members to the chamber could significantly improve the atmosphere, especially during debates.

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