MPs beset by technology woes as they attempt to quiz Boris Johnson at PMQs

PA

Prime Minister's Questions descended into chaos as technology woes and a nuisance phone call hit MPs while trying to quiz Boris Johnson.

Conservative Neil O'Brien was the first to experience issues as his landline started ringing as soon as he appeared on television screens in the chamber.

The MP for Harborough was asking the Prime Minister about the Covid-19 vaccine rollout and raising concerns about virus mutations, while simultaneously receiving a call apparently asking if he had been "involved in an accident lately".

Mr O'Brien pressed a button in a bid to make the ringing stop.

But it continued and Mr O'Brien told the House of Commons: "I'm so sorry."

The ringing could be heard throughout much of his question although he pressed on and reached the end of his query.

He wrote on Twitter: "When you want to ask a question on which the lives of millions may depend ... but someone rings your long-silent landline ... to see if you have been involved in an accident lately."

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford was next to suffer as his feed was cut off before he could ask Mr Johnson his second question.

Conservative MP Nicola Richards (West Bromwich East) then appeared on screen but could not be heard as she tried to speak.

Ms Richards was told to unmute but she insisted she was not muted and repeatedly said: "Can you hear me?"

She added: "It's not working."

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle moved the session on, with both Mr Blackford and Ms Richards returning at a later point.

In his question to Mr Johnson, Mr O'Brien earlier told the Commons: "I'm so sorry, it's excellent we're leading Europe in vaccinations and it's excellent we now have strong health borders.

"But as the virus bounces around the world, there's a real risk it will mutate and be able to dodge the vaccines or reduce their efficacy, and there's concerning data from South Africa in that respect.

"Will the Government develop a new rapid pathway to allow the approval of new variations of the vaccine so that we can shut down any new strains quickly?"

Mr Johnson replied: "Yes indeed.

"He makes an incredibly important point and we've been talking about that with the scientists over the last days and weeks intensively, and just in the last few hours.

"We're confident that the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) will be in a position to turn around new applications for new variants of vaccines as may be required to deal with new variants of the virus."

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