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Boris Johnson wants Parliament ‘back to normal by Christmas’

Victoria Jones

By Patrick Daly, PA Political Correspondent

Prime Minister Boris Johnson reportedly wants UK Parliament “back to normal” by the end of 2020, urging MPs to lead from the front on the return to workplaces.

Mr Johnson, according to reports in The Times and The Daily Telegraph, spoke of the importance of returning to workplaces to Conservative backbenchers as the country seeks to strike a balance between public and economic health.

Downing Street fears huge job losses in town and city centre shops and cafes if workers do not return to their pre-lockdown commuter patterns.

But there are allegedly divisions in UK Government over whether the time is right, with the coronavirus rate still growing in parts of the country, to put pressure on employees to return to the workplace.

The Telegraph reported the launch of a public information campaign pushing for home working to be curtailed has been put back.

It was due to begin this week but the paper reported it would start next week at the earliest, suggesting the Cabinet Office wanted more civil servants back to their desks before urging the rest of the country to return.

On Wednesday, the Bank of England told MPs the UK Government’s own Covid-safe guidelines for employers meant it was unlikely offices could get back up to full capacity due to the need for staff to be kept apart.

Workplace advice includes introducing one-way systems, staggered shift times and limiting the number of colleagues that staff members are exposed to in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

Alex Brazier, the bank’s executive director for risk, told the Commons Treasury Committee: “Because of those constraints I don’t think we can expect to see a sudden and sharp return of lots of people to the very dense office environments that we were used to.

“We should expect a more phased return depending on the public health outcomes that we’ll see over the coming weeks and months.”