Face coverings could be required at polling stations next year, MPs told
Voters could be required to wear face coverings when visiting polling stations at next year’s elections, MPs have heard.
Cabinet Office minister Penny Mordaunt suggested that measures similar to those used to make retailers Covid-secure could also be used at polling stations and at counts.
Speaking in the Commons, shadow Cabinet Office minister Cat Smith said: “Will voters be required to wear face coverings in polling stations and, if they are, will polling clerks be expected to enforce that and what resources will they get to do that?
“If they’re not required to wear face coverings, what protections will be put in place to protect staff in polling stations?”
Ms Mordaunt responded: “Hopefully we will be in a happier place because of the vaccination programme when the elections arrive, but she has raised some very important issues.
“Just as our retailers, just as other settings, healthcare settings and so forth, have put in place measures to make them Covid-secure, whether they’re public health-related measures or whether they are about the enforcement that comes alongside and the policing of that, we will do the same at polling stations.
“We will do the same at counts and also to ensure that the transparency that people want through scrutiny and so forth can still take place.
“We also will be introducing some slight legislative changes as well to enable, for example, somebody who has to isolate very close to the election to still be able to cast their vote.
“We’re working through all of these issues with those organisations methodically and we will have those elections, they will be safe and they will still have integrity.”
Labour MP Clive Lewis (Norwich South) also criticised the Government for its handling of contracts during the coronavirus pandemic.
He said: “Given that this Government has doled out 10-and-a-half billion pounds of our money without any competition, according to the National Audit Office, frittered hundreds of millions on consultants and individuals whose main qualification seems to be they are friends of members of this Government, does the minister agree with me that, in any other part of this world, this would be called corruption, plain and simple?”
Cabinet Office minister Julia Lopez responded: “I do not agree.
“It’s very important to understand that actually every contract went through the same eight-stage process where it was looked into and it was done on the grounds of commercial sense, rather than anything to do with any connections.
“As the NAO report said, ministers declared all interests and there was no evidence of any wrongdoing.”