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Lord Speaker announces withdrawal from Parliament amid coronavirus outbreak

The Lord Speaker also encouraged peers not to attend Parliament unless necessary

2 min read

The Speaker of the House of Lords has announced he will work from home from now on as a precaution amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Lord Normal Fowler, 82, said he was withdrawing from Parliament in line with Public Health England advice for the over 70s.

He told the Lords: “My strong view from my own experience, is that the best course to take in the present crisis is to follow the clear direction of Public Health England who have issued specific advice about social distancing for those over 70 and for those with specific underlying health conditions.”

“This is not only for their own good - or should I say our own good - but for the benefit of those in our National Health Service who are working so incredibly hard in the current circumstances. 

“And perhaps I could say softly that some of us are not just over 70 but over 80.”

He continued: “So reluctantly, I will be withdrawing from the House for the time being but thanks to modern technology, I will still be in close contact with my Office, deciding Private Notice Questions and continuing my duties as Lord Speaker.”

“In effect I will be doing what thousands of people are now doing: ‘working from home’.”

Speaker duties in the House of Lords would now be carried out by his deputies, he added.

Lord Fowler also advised against peers coming to the House unnecessarily, saying that “no-one should consider it is their duty to be here in present circumstances”.

He encouraged his colleagues - the average age of which 70 - to “reflect on their own situation” in light of medical advice.

His withdrawal comes after MPs were told to stay away from the Commons chamber unless they intended to speak. 

Non-passholder access to the Parliamentary estate has also been limited as the public galleries have been closed and all tours have been cancelled.

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