Watch: Jacob Rees Mogg: Tory MPs don’t need masks because of our ‘convivial spirit’
Jacob Rees-Mogg has claimed Tory MPs do not need masks due to their "convivial, fraternal spirit".
Speaking in the House of Commons, the leader of the house made the comments in response to SNP MP Pete Wishart, who expressed his frustration with the lack of mask wearing on the Conservative benches and urged them to set an example.
"I would say there's no advice to wear face masks in workplaces, and the advice on crowded spaces is with crowded spaces with people that you don't know," Mogg responded.
"We on this side know each other."
Adding: "It may be that the honourable gentleman does not like mixing with his own side, he may want to keep himself in his personal bubble... and I sympathise if that is the case, but we on this side have a more convivial and fraternal spirit and are therefore following the advice of Her Majesty's government."
Rees-Mogg's comments come after the health secretary Sajid Javid on Thursday encouraged the public to wear masks at a time when COVID case numbers and deaths are rising heading into winter.
At his first COVID Downing Street press conference since being appointed health secretary, Javid said MPs should wear masks to "set an example" after being challenged by a journalist from the Financial Times over the lack of Tory MPs wearing face masks in the Commons.
"I think that's a very fair point," he replied to the journalist.
"As I say, we've all got our role to play in this and we the people standing on this stage play our public roles as a secretary of state, as someone in the NHS, as the head of UKHSA (UK Health Security Agency).
"We also have a role to play to set an example as private individuals as well, I think that's a very fair point and I'm sure a lot of people will have heard you."
Elsewhere today, Conservative health minister Edward Argar told BBC Breakfast that mask wearing is a matter of "common sense".
“The [House of Commons] is a very big place and I come back to my point which is it’s about colleagues, everyone in society, considering the guidance and forming an informed view," he said.
Adding: “That’s why it’s not mandated because we believe that people are best-placed to make those judgments with the information.”
However, when asked about Javid's comments, Argar said: "I think it’s for those individual members of parliament to read the guidance, consider it, bear in mind what Sajid has said and reach their own views.”
One of the government's own scientific advisors has previously criticised the notion that you do not need to wear masks around people you know.
When asked if masks were only needed when around strangers John Edmunds, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), told ITV last month: “No. You’re most likely to catch infections from people you know.”
While some Conservative MPs, like former prime minister Theresa May, are continuing to wear masks in the House of Commons the overwhelming majority of Conservative MPs are not.
In contrast, Labour have made a point of wearing masks in the chamber. However, Rees-Mogg challenged the party on Thursday and pointed out that they did not wear masks at the Labour party conference last month.
"Masks is a very interesting matter," he said in response to a challenge from Labour on the issue.
"Because I may retweet... a picture from the socialists conference that took place recently.
"And, do you know the most extraordinary thing? All these luminaries of the opposition benches, some of the most formidable figures in British political life, and their faces are naked and unadorned.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has regularly encouraged countries around the world to use masks as part of their plans to control the spread of the virus.
"Masks should be used as part of a comprehensive strategy of measures to suppress transmission and save lives; the use of a mask alone is not sufficient to provide an adequate level of protection against COVID-19," they said.
Watch: Health secretary Sajid Javid warns COVID-19 cases could hit 100,000 a day