Watch: Jacob Rees-Mogg waves face mask in the air but refuses to wear it
Jacob Rees-Mogg has defied Boris Johnson after he again refused to wear a face mask in the House of Commons.
After Rees-Mogg and other Conservative MPs sat inside the chamber without a mask at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday, Johnson’s press secretary said MPs should continue to wear masks “in enclosed settings”.
However, Commons leader Rees-Mogg ignored this on Thursday as he took business questions – and even waved his unused mask around.
His opposite number, Labour shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire, had called out Rees-Mogg, saying “clearly some people on the government side don’t seem to note that the government’s own encouraging rules are that we should wear masks and socially distance in enclosed spaces, and it’s clearly one rule for them and another for the rest of us”.
Debbonaire was wrong to say mask wearing is a rule.
As of Monday, when England’s coronavirus lockdown ended, mask wearing indoors was no longer a legal requirement. However, it remains strongly advised.
As well as Johnson, Rees-Mogg has defied Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who urged MPs on Monday to carry on wearing masks in the chamber and “not push the limits for the sake of it”.
After he was criticised by Debbonaire, Rees-Mogg produced his unworn mask as he said: “I have one in my pocket along with a handkerchief that is here – in case the chamber is full. But it’s not and there is a good deal of space.”
He said MPs “were not squeezed in and nor were we at PMQs yesterday. A normal PMQs, we are all sitting squeezed in with hardly an inch between us.
"But yesterday there was space and therefore it was a reasonable decision for members to take for themselves in accordance with Mr Speaker’s guidance.”
Hoyle has resisted calls to make face masks compulsory for MPs on the parliamentary estate, insisting there is “no meaningful way” he could do so.
It is mandatory, however, for staff on the estate to continue to wear a mask.
Watch: Thursday's politics briefing