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     2   Proceedings for THE sitting —STATEMENT BY SPEAKER

The Speaker made the following statement:

I wish to draw the attention of Honourable Members to special arrangements for the operation of the Chamber during sittings this week to take account of precautions against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The most obvious is the changed seating arrangements which you will have already noticed. The increased spacing in the Chamber seating means that Members may not all be able to sit at their usual seats. Please sit only in the seat or at the space now allocated to you with your name. The seat allocations have been arranged to be sufficiently far apart to meet social distancing requirements. You will also note additional seats placed outside the benches. These seats are reserved for Members and are considered to be within the area of Member’s seats for the purposes of any divisions that may be called. A Member sitting on one of these seats will be counted in a division.

Ministers and Shadow Ministers on the front benches may come to the despatch boxes to speak. Other Ministers and Shadow Ministers in the rows behind the front benches are asked to remain at their allocated temporary seats to speak.

During divisions the tellers will operate from the Hansard Table, which will not be otherwise occupied, in order to maintain appropriate spacing.

There will also be reduced services from the attendants. Water will not be provided by attendants, but is available in bottles located at the rear of the Chamber. Members can obtain their own water and are requested to dispose of the empty bottles in one of the bins. Members will also be allowed to bring their own water into the Chamber. The attendants will only take documents to and from members of the front benches in order to minimise closer contact and the handling of papers. There are bottles of hand sanitiser at a number of locations within and around the Chamber.

You will also note that several of the doors to the Chamber are open. This is to reduce the need for Members to touch the door handles. The doors, however, will be closed during any divisions. The handles will also be regularly cleaned during the day.

I am very conscious of the need to limit the total number of people in the Chamber at any one time. For this reason, occupants of the advisers’ boxes will be required to leave during divisions. When divisions are called the attendants will hold the doors open, but will then remain outside the Chamber when the doors are locked.

The Press Gallery will be restricted to a maximum of only four registered media photographers plus Auspic at any one time, with only one registered photographer allowed to remain during divisions. The Press Gallery will be closed to all other media representatives. However, the media may use the second floor enclosed galleries at any time.

I thank Members for their cooperation and forbearance during this difficult and extraordinary time.