By Ned Simons
Coronavirus has changed everything. Make sense of it all with the Waugh Zone, our evening politics briefing. Sign up now.
Members of the House of Lords have been told to “show leadership” and stay away from Westminster to avoid spreading coronavirus.
In a letter to peers on Sunday, Lord Fowler, the Lord Speaker, urged members of the upper House to work from home using video conferencing tools to take part in virtual meetings.
The House of Lords returns to work on Tuesday.
Under current rules, peers cannot claim their £323 daily allowance, a tax-free sum of £48,000 per year, unless they physically turn up to parliament.
Fowler, who left London as the outbreak hit the capital and has been working from his home on the Isle of Wight, said today a change to this would be “considered”.
“There is the issue of allowances, which currently cannot be claimed for participation in virtual proceedings,” he said.
“This includes not only activity in the virtual sessions for questions, statements and debates, but also the virtual activities of select committees, many of which have continued to work hard during the recess, getting on with the work the House has appointed them to carry out.
“This issue will be considered by the House of Lords Commission, which I chair, soon after the House resumes and I will report back to you on the result of our deliberations.”
A number of high profile politicians, including Boris Johnson, have tested positive for the illness.
In March, professor Neil Ferguson, one of the leading experts who advises the government on coronavirus, warned “there is a lot of COVID-19 in Westminster”.
In his letter, Fowler said peers, many of whom are over 70 and therefore more vulnerable to the virus, “need to show leadership and as the coronavirus situation remains critical”.
“We must do all we can to keep other colleagues safe and, very importantly, protect the staff who will have to be present to enable the House to sit. I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to follow this advice,” he added.
“It is clear that we are still very much in the grip of a public health pandemic. The government advice is clear and everyone in the nation has been asked to stay at home. I would like to emphasise that point.”
A total of 16,060 patients have died in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm on Saturday, the Department of Health said,