| -1.1°C Belfast

Pandemic travel 'less risky than riding a motorbike' says DUP's Wilson over London Commons trip despite Speaker's warning

DUP man says travelling less risky than riding motorbike

Travelling during the pandemic is less risky than riding a motorbike, Sammy Wilson has said.

Mr Wilson was speaking after he and fellow DUP MP Jim Shannon were criticised for attending the House of Commons in London - despite the Speaker urging members not to physically appear unless "absolutely necessary".

Sammy Wilson sat - socially distanced - beside Mr Shannon and asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson how another "damaging" lockdown would protect the vulnerable, the NHS and stem the spread of the virus.

Mr Wilson later defended the pair's attendance, stating he had the job acting as a proxy for other DUP MPs in the event of a vote, while Mr Shannon wanted to speak in person as the party's health spokesperson.

Coronavirus Data Graphs

During the session, the PM rejected the East Antrim MP's claims the first two lockdowns had been ineffective.

Mr Shannon had been listed to appear virtually along with Ian Paisley.


Session: Jim Shannon and Sammy Wilson in the House of Commons yesterday

Session: Jim Shannon and Sammy Wilson in the House of Commons yesterday

Session: Jim Shannon and Sammy Wilson in the House of Commons yesterday

Mr Wilson has been criticised on several occasions in the past for allegedly breaching Covid regulations.

Earlier this week the DUP stalwart defended a trip to Portrush at the weekend after returning home from London, amid chaotic scenes of day-trippers descending on the Causeway coast.

One Twitter user said they spotted Mr Wilson on Portrush's East Strand and questioned if he should be self-isolating following his return from London, where he was carrying out his work as an MP.

Mr Wilson defended travelling to the Commons on the BBC, stating: "I drive a motorbike, I drive a motor car. Actually, at my age, I'm more in danger of being killed on my motorbike than I am of being affected by this virus."

He added: "If there is a vote, as Chief Whip, I will be a proxy for all our members.

"Jim Shannon is our health spokesperson and both of us made the decision that, A: we wanted to register our votes if there were votes, and B: that as health spokesperson he wanted to speak and speak in person in the chamber.

"There is nobody who is more aware of the risks than Jim Shannon, and in fact sometimes we would chide him about how safety-conscious he is."

Regarding his trip to Portrush at the weekend, he said: "I decided that I want to go, and it wasn't to far from my own home, for a walk along the beach, I was not with a crowd. I think, given the bracing wind at the beach, it would have killed everything, including coronavirus. And, of course, thousands of others made the same decision."

London is currently under Tier 4 of the UK Government's coronavirus regulations, banning non-essential travel.

Large crowds descended on the north coast over the weekend. First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster said she regretted seeing the images of the crowds along the Causeway Coast. Ahead of a Executive meeting on Monday, she said: "There were huge crowds gathering together and I really regret that because we have very difficult decisions to take tonight as a consequence of that."

Mr Wilson was one of 70 MPs listed on the Commons website to ask an urgent question following a ministerial update from Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the Government's Covid-19 response.

The DUP MP was one of only four members listed for a question to be attending the chamber physically.

Mr Shannon also defended his presence in the House. "I am the DUP's Health spokesman and was not likely to be called via the call list," he said.

"Interventions are only possible if you are physically in the chamber. Having buried family with Covid, I am very aware of the dangers and would never take unnecessary risk.

"Parliament should look at extending the virtual arrangements further which would negate people like me having to travel. Remote voting is not available, only proxy which means each party has to have representatives in the building to cover any potential votes."

Belfast Telegraph