United Kingdom

Covid UK: House of Commons almost DOUBLES number of MPs allowed to speak from green benches to 64

The House of Commons is to relax its Covid rules to almost double the number of MPs allowed to speak from its famous green benches, with was announced today. 

Authorities will now allow 64 MPs to take part in debates, with the remainder still having to dial in remotely.

While the number has gone up, it is still only a tenth of the 650 MPs eligible to sit in the House.

As the Parliamentary week began today there were only 27 MPs present for the first item of business, Department of Work and Pensions questions. 

Since last April 50 MPs have been allowed in the chamber at one time, but there were only 33 seats from which they could speak. The number of seats has been increased to 64, with an additional five MPs also allowed in but not to speak, a total of 69.

The numbers are sure to hit capacity for Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, which could provide a boost to Boris Johnson, who performs better with an audience.

Announcing the change today, Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said MPs had to wear masks when not on their feet addressing the house, as that was one of the conditions of being allowed to let more in.

Warning he would suspend debates if they became too crowded, he added: 'Every additional member in this chamber brings us a step closer to returning to normality, which I and all other members wish to see.' 

Authorities will now allow 64 MPs to take part in debates with the remainder still having to dial in remotely.

Announcing the change today, Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said MPs had to wear masks when not on their feet addressing the house, as that was one of the conditions of being allowed to let more in.

While the number has gone up, it is still only a tenth of the 650 MPs eligible to sit in the House.

The Commons has been functioning at a fraction of its regular capacity since April last year when historic plans were introduced to allow virtual participation for the first time.  

A House of Commons spokesman said: 'Following a review of social distancing measures, and in line with advice from Public Health England, a total of 64 members will be able to speak in the Chamber from today – almost double the original number. 

'The changes include seven marked seats in the under galleries beyond the Bar of the House which have had new microphones installed to enable this.

'Individuals must continue wearing face coverings when seated in the Chamber – and the Commission also agreed that Members should be encouraged to take part in lateral flow testing twice a week.'

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