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Let Parliament staff photograph MPs who breach social distancing rules, unions demand

Let Parliament staff photograph MPs who breach social distancing rules, unions demand

MPs have been ordered to return to the Commons. (PA)

3 min read

Parliamentary staff should be able to name and shame MPs who breach coronavirus social distancing guidelines at work, trade unions are demanding.

A joint letter from Prospect, the FDA, PCS and the GMB unions calls for staff who believe they are being put at risk of coronavirus to be allowed to take photos of MPs and peers on the Parliamentary estate.

Photography is banned throughout much of Parliament, but the unions say some of those working for MPs are worried about a lack of compliance with the guidelines. 

And they claim that catering and security staff fear they could lose their jobs if they ask parliamentarians to comply.

One union member working in Parliament said: “The return of members has meant a huge increase in the number of people on the estate. 

“Moving around is now proving difficult while trying to maintain social distancing. 

“Yesterday we felt at risk walking on the estate with so many more people around.”

Another told their union: “When taking the escalator from Portcullis House earlier today, an MP barged past me carrying luggage, presumably in a rush to catch a tube. 

“I’m fully aware, as a mere serf, that his catching a train is far more important than my or any other member of staff’s health, but is there any means by which these idiots can be held to account for not following social distancing rules like the rest of us?”

The call comes amid a bitter row over the return of the House of Commons following a stint using a “hybrid” mix of physical attendance and remote debates and voting.

The Government has eased its earlier requirement for all business to take part in person on the estate — but the current method of voting has seen long queues snaking around the site.

The four unions are calling for staff to be able to make use of whistleblowing procedures to report MPs breaching the social distancing measures.

And they say their members should “have the ability to take pictures of incidents where they believe social distancing is not being observed – and where, therefore, there is an increased risk to the health and safety of others in the vicinity”.

'MOCKERY'

Launching the call, Prospect deputy general secretary Garry Graham said: "Parliament authorities have promised staff that they will be safe. It is vital that where rules are breached staff have recourse to take action without fear of repercussion.
 
“Allowing staff the liberty of taking a photo of offending Members would go some way to reassure them that parliamentary authorities have their back. MPs themselves liberally breached the ‘no-photos’ rule while participating in Jacob Rees-Mogg’s ridiculous conga.”
 
Mark Serwotka, boss of the PCS union, said: "It is a ridiculous situation where MPs are at liberty to make a mockery of the reopening of parliament on social media whereas our security guard members are prohibited from using photographs to document failures in social distancing."

And Amy Leversidge, assistant general secretary of the FDA union, said: "Staff must have faith that the flouting of social distancing rules will be addressed without fear or favour – parliamentarians are not exceptional, they have to follow the same social distancing rules as everyone else. Staff safety cannot be an secondary consideration to politics.”

A House of Commons spokesperson said: “The House’s priority is to ensure that those on the estate are safe while business is facilitated. Any reported breach of social distancing guidelines made through the numerous channels available to staff will be taken seriously.”

Parliamentary sources meanwhile suggested that nobody would be penalised for reporting social distancing breaches, while marshals are on hand across the estate in a bid to help manage social distancing.

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