Lindsay Hoyle and Jacob Rees-Mogg clash over whether House of Commons should return to normal

The Speaker of the House of Commons has warned that he will suspend sittings if MPs get too close to eachother in the chamber.

It follows calls from Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg on Tuesday night for all 650 MPs to return to Westminster to “set an example” to the rest of the country as the coronavirus lockdown is eased in England.

The news came as Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, prepares to address a mass meeting of the party’s 1922 committee of backbench Tory MPs by video conferencing on Friday.

The two metre social distancing rules means that only 50 MPs can attend the chamber in person, while up to 120 can join proceedings remotely via Zoom video conferencing.

Mr Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House of Commons, had said he did not want to see the “hybrid” arrangements extended beyond the Whitsun recess, which ends on June 2, and called for MPs to attend in person.

But Sir Lindsay Hoyle told MPs on Wednesday that his priority was that “those on the estate are safe while business is facilitated”.

He said that voting physically now could take an hour due to social distancing rules, adding: “I may suspend sittings between items of business to allow members to enter and exit the chamber.

“I am also quite prepared to suspend a sitting if I believe that the safe number of honourable members in the chamber risks being exceeded.”

Conservative MPs are expected to complain that not enough of them are getting to speak in virtual debates when they ask questions of Mr Johnson on Friday.

The Prime Minister has agreed to address the party’s 1922 committee via Microsoft’s Teams service at lunchtime. As many as 250 Tory MPs are expected to participate.

Details of the meeting – which will be a first for the Conservative parliamentary party – were hammered out at a meeting between Mr Johnson and Sir Graham Brady, the 1922 chairman, shortly after PMQs on Wednesday lunchtime.

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