Tory MPs appear to heed Javid call to set example by wearing masks

Much higher proportion of Conservatives seen wearing masks in Commons chamber after comments by health secretary

A call by the health secretary, Sajid Javid, for MPs to show more of an example over measures to combat Covid by wearing masks in the Commons has seemingly had an impact, with a notable increase in face covering on Conservative benches on Thursday.

Since parliament resumed after the summer break there has been a clear contrast in mask use between opposition MPs, the majority of whom have worn them, and Conservatives, most of whom have not.

But in an admittedly sparsely attended chamber on Thursday morning, during an urgent Labour question on Covid, six of the 12 Conservative MPs present were wearing masks, a much higher proportion than usual.

They did not include Maggie Throup, the junior health minister who was responding to the question. But her health department colleague Gillian Keegan was masked on the front bench. Among Tory refuseniks were the likes of Desmond Swayne and Mark Harper, who oppose many Covid measures.

It comes after Javid unexpectedly called for more MPs to wear masks at a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday. Previously ministers have brushed aside concerns about maskless Tory MPs crammed into the Commons chamber, a compact arena with limited ventilation, saying it was within guidelines as the MPs are colleagues.

At the press conference, Javid was asked about the risks of mixed messages on masks and other areas, such as the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, encouraging the public to book Christmas parties.

Javid conceded this was an issue. “I think that is a very fair point. As I say, we’ve all got our role to play in this,” he said, standing alongside Jenny Harries, head of the new UK Health Security Agency, and Stephen Powis, the medical director of NHS England.

Javid said: “We, the people standing on this stage, we play … our public roles as secretary of state, as someone from the NHS, as the head of UKHSA. But we also have a role to play in setting an example as private individuals as well, and I think that’s a very fair point, and I’m sure a lot of people will have heard you.”

It is understood that Javid’s comments on masks were not expected by Downing Street or party whips, and there has been no formal instruction from Tory whips for MPs to wear masks in the chamber.

Asked if Boris Johnson would wear one when next in the Commons, the prime minister’s spokesperson said he had been unable to ask him, as Johnson was on a visit to Northern Ireland. He added: ““It remains the case that it a matter of personal judgment for all individuals on wearing a mask.”

Before the urgent question, the Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, criticised Javid for his comments about masks – but only for making them at a press conference rather than telling MPs in person.


Peter Walker Political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Ministers should not have cameras in their offices, Sajid Javid says
New health secretary confirms recording device in his office has been disabled after Hancock leak

Aubrey Allegretti and Matthew Weaver

28, Jun, 2021 @8:59 AM

Article image
Tory minister says face masks should not become a ‘sign of virtue’
Gillian Keegan says it is ‘not comfortable sitting for hours in a mask’ after calls from Sajid Javid for MPs to set example

Jamie Grierson

22, Oct, 2021 @9:06 AM

Article image
Mixed messages: the changing government narrative on face masks
When poll showed people thought Covid rules were being eased too quickly, the messaging changed

Aubrey Allegretti

12, Jul, 2021 @5:37 PM

Article image
Sajid Javid refuses to rule out Tory deal with Nigel Farage
Chancellor evades question over possible election agreement with Brexit party

Kate Proctor and Heather Stewart

08, Sep, 2019 @12:30 PM

Article image
Sajid Javid apologises for saying it was time to stop ‘cowering’ from Covid
Health secretary sorry for ‘poor choice of word’ after backlash from bereaved families

Heather Stewart Political editor

25, Jul, 2021 @5:09 PM

Article image
Sajid Javid puts rivals on the spot over Tory party 'Islamophobia'
No dissent from any candidate as home secretary calls for independent investigation on live TV

Kevin Rawlinson

18, Jun, 2019 @9:09 PM

Article image
Dominic Cummings' lockdown trip: what critical Tory MPs say
Critics of PM’s chief aide range from former ministers to some of party’s latest intake

Rowena Mason Deputy political editor

28, May, 2020 @6:04 PM

Article image
‘Face of the modern Tory party’: Sajid Javid tipped for the top
He is a rising star who appeals to left and right, though things can change quickly in his current post

Pippa Crerar Deputy political editor

22, Jun, 2018 @5:00 AM

Article image
Going up: Sajid Javid, the Tory from ‘Britain’s worst street’, is back
With nemesis Dominic Cummings out of No 10, Javid is back in favour – but faces a tough health brief

Jamie Grierson Home affairs correspondent

27, Jun, 2021 @3:54 PM

Article image
Sajid Javid to call for shift in mindset to tackle knife crime
Home secretary will emphasise need for public health approach to youth violence

Owen Bowcott and Jessica Elgot

14, Apr, 2019 @11:01 PM