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‘Completely reckless’: MP faces calls to quit after coronavirus rule breaches

Written by on 2 October 2020

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has criticised an MP’s “completely reckless behaviour” after she broke coronavirus rules.

Margaret Ferrier has been kicked out of the SNP parliamentary party but is facing calls to leave the Commons completely over her actions.

She travelled from Scotland to London on Monday despite having had COVID-19 symptoms and been tested, made a speech in parliament and then found out she was positive – before proceeding to travel home again by rail.

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Ms Ferrier faces a potential fine of up to GBP4,000

Sir Lindsay said her actions were a “serious breach” of safety in parliament and added there will be a “review” of the rules.

“We believed there had been a breach of the law,” he told Sky News.

“People make mistakes but there is something completely different when they act in a reckless manner.”

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Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle. Pic: UK Parliament
Image:
Sir Lindsay said she acted in a ‘reckless manner’. Pic: UK Parliament

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister and leader of the SNP, said she had told Ms Ferrier she “should step down as an MP”.

She tweeted: “I did so with a heavy heart – she is a friend and colleague – but her actions were dangerous and indefensible.

“I have no power to force an MP to resign but I hope she will do the right thing.”

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Ms Sturgeon has told the Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP to quit

Earlier, the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford said he was “gobsmacked” by Ms Ferrier’s behaviour.

“I don’t have any powers over her… I can’t force an MP to resign,” he told Sky News’ Kay Burley show.

But he added: “I think Margaret has got to reflect on her position as an MP. She knows we will be judged by our actions…

“I have to say, when you have a breach such as this it’s really important that you take your own responsibilities.

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“Margaret’s an honourable individual… there is that responsibility – there’s that honour and dignity that you have to have as a public official, and I think it’s pretty clear Margaret should do the right thing.

“I can’t compel her to do that but she has to reflect on the circumstances that she’s put herself and other people in.”

Under the coronavirus rules, anyone who has symptoms should isolate until their test results come through and only be released if it comes back negative.

Ms Ferrier disregarded that – and also the duty for anyone who tests positive to stay at home, opting instead to take a train from Westminster to Glasgow.

What did she do - and which other high-profile figures have broken coronavirus rules?

What did she do – and which other high-profile figures have broken coronavirus rules?

The Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP, who won her seat from Labour in the 2019 election, has faced calls to quit from other SNP politicians, including David Linden who said her position is not “tenable” and Kirsty Blackman who added her “actions cannot be overlooked”.

A quick investigation as to whom Ms Ferrier could have infected identified one close contact – who has luckily tested negative for coronavirus, Mr Blackford added in his interview with Sky News.

MPs go back to parliament after the summer recess
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Ms Ferrier made a speech in parliament despite not having had her test result back

She faces a fine of up to GBP4,000 under a new law that came into force on the day of her positive test result.

Police Scotland said officers are “looking into the circumstances”, along with the Metropolitan Police.

It follows a string of other high-profile figures breaking the rules, including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn who attended a dinner party with eight other people – breaching the rule of six.

And Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s top adviser, made headlines in spring for travelling 260 miles from London to Durham during lockdown with COVID-19 symptoms, then travelling to a beauty spot to allegedly test his eyesight.