'I'm not spewing Covid': Defiant Jacob Rees-Mogg says no need for mask after negative test

Watch: Rees-Mogg defends decision to not wear a face mask in the Commons

A defiant Jacob Rees-Mogg has defended his maskless appearance in a packed House of Commons chamber on Wednesday, claiming a coronavirus test beforehand had proven he was "not spewing Covid".

The Commons Leader was one of the only MPs in the House of Commons for Rishi Sunak's Budget who did not wear a face mask, despite warnings from the health secretary that people should wear masks in busy areas - especially politicians who must set an example.

Amid concerns over case numbers in Parliament, the Commons authorities ordered everyone except MPs to wear face coverings while on the parliamentary estate due to rising Covid-19 cases.

It comes as Mr Rees-Mogg's constituency battles the worst coronavirus infection rates in the country - Bath and North East Somerset has a seven day average of 760 cases per 100,000 people.

On Wednesday the UK recorded another 43,941 coronavirus cases 207 fatalities.

The measure applies to staff, contractors and visitors, but the Commons authorities said it could not compel MPs to wear masks as they are not deemed to be Parliament employees.

During Wednesday’s Budget, Prime Minister Boris Johnson wore a mask alongside other Cabinet members but Mr Rees-Mogg and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss did not.

Jacob Rees-Mogg was one of the only MPs in the Commons chamber for Rishi Sunak's Budget who did not wear a face mask. Credit: UK Parliament/PA

The vast majority of MPs on the opposition benches have worn masks during the pandemic.

Shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire said: “It was good to see that yesterday almost all of the Cabinet took the health secretary’s advice to wear masks, I do note the Leader of the House did not, he still spears to think that a fraternal and convivial spirit will protect him from Covid.”

Mr Rees-Mogg replied that masks were not compulsory in the workplace according to guidance, but gave assurance he had taken a lateral flow test.

He said: “Having taken one – I can assure her I have taken more than one over the weeks and months that have gone past – I am negative and therefore I am not going to be spewing Covid around this chamber, because I have taken a negative lateral flow test.”

He also accused Labour MPs of having gone “maskless” during a party at their conference in Brighton in September.

Mr Rees-Mogg said: “I would remind her of the Daily Mirror party at the socialists’ conference which I have heard more about since last week, that not only was it a maskless fest, where alcoholic beverages – which will be cheaper thanks to the marvellous budget yesterday – alcoholic beverages were imbibed, I hear there was dancing. Maskless dancing.”

The senior Tory has previously defended decisions by Tory MPs to not wear masks in the chamber, saying there is no need because they all work together and meet regularly.

SNP Commons leader Pete Wishart said Conservative MPs are not immune from Covid-19, as he suggested they are “so convivial that several of them are now off having caught Covid”.

He said: “The Leader of the House should be thoroughly embarrassed about his ridiculous comments from businesses questions last week when he suggested that Tory MPs are protected from Covid because they have ‘a more convivial fraternal spirit’.

“It’s so convivial that several of them are now off having caught Covid, along with the leader of the Opposition and the chief whip of the Scottish National Party.

“Tory MPs are not immune.

“Staff and visitors are now obliged to wear facemasks but MPs are not, in a ‘do as we say’ edict.”

He said “progress has been made” and “more of them are actually starting to care about colleagues and members of staff by wearing a face mask, and I welcome that”.

But he noted Mr Rees-Mogg was not wearing a face masks and said “for goodness sake man, put it on, be the Leader of the House, not the libertarian of the House.”