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Union condemns 'dangerous and impractical' plans to end virtual parliament

PROSPECT hit out yesterday at “dangerous and impractical” plans to cancel online sessions and bring MPs back to Westminster as early as next month.

The union for parliamentary staff argued that the current system established during the coronavirus outbreak is working well and that the government should follow its own advice to “work from home if you can.”

Virtual debates and electronic voting have been organised to enable MPs and staff to work from home, but Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said last week that MPs could not “hide away” while others return to their workplaces.

Prospect argued that removing these facilities could require not only MPs but hundreds more staff to attend Parliament, casting doubt on Mr Rees-Mogg’s claim that only a “very few” extra staff would be needed.

Ending electronic voting would also mean that all 650 MPs would need to turn up if they wanted to vote, the union added, warning that social-distancing measures could see MPs spending a whole day queueing up to vote.

The need for social distancing could lead to voting queues more than three quarters of a mile long, twice the length of Whitehall, Prospect also said.

It argued that the government is also at risk of breaching another of its own guidelines, which states that “employers will need to carry out Covid-19 risk assessments in consultation with their workers or trade unions.”

No such risk assessment has taken place, the union said.

Prospect deputy general secretary Garry Graham said that parliamentary staff have made “herculean efforts” to enable MPs to work remotely and that it “beggars belief” that the government “would throw all of this away.”

He said: “We will not allow people to be put at risk simply to create good PR for the government.”

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