JACOB Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House of Commons, has accused Labour of opposing the physical return of MPs to Westminster in a bid to "stymie" the UK Government.

Ahead of a meeting with Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker, senior politicians from opposition parties and representatives of the unions, Mr Rees-Mogg claimed Parliament was not able to do its job properly under the current hybrid arrangements.

Labour, SNP and Liberal Democrat sources have told The Herald that their MPs will not return to Westminster in any numbers until it is safe to do so.

They fear returning to the Commons en masse would put staff, MPs and their constituents at risk of spreading coronavirus as politicians went back and forth to London.

One Labour MP said it was a “nonsense” for the Government to try to end virtual contributions, noting how the Speaker had stipulated no more than 50 MPs in the chamber at any one time because of the need to maintain social distancing.

“If we had to vote observing social distancing, the queues would run from the lobbies, through Westminster Hall, to the street,” said one backbencher.

A Tory MP complained about the lack of normal participation of MPs, which was affecting scrutiny of Government and suggested that virtual contributions could continue but in a new phased return to normality.

Opposition leaders took part in a conference call last night on the issue and moves are afoot through the “usual channels” ie the party whips to try to maintain virtual contributions. Matters are likely to come to ahead in the 24 hours as Parliament rises for the Whitsun recess tomorrow evening.

The Government has made clear it does not want to see the hybrid arrangements - allowing MPs to participate remotely - extended beyond the recess, which ends on June 2.

That would mean MPs would have to attend in person to take part in proceedings at Westminster.

Speaking on his ConservativeHome podcast, Mr Rees-Mogg said: "What has been done is remarkable but it simply isn't a proper Parliament doing its job."

The Somerset MP said the hybrid provisions, which have included MPs contributing over video-link from their homes and taking part in remote voting, limited the amount of scrutiny of legislation.

He added: "Frankly, the Opposition like having a hybrid Parliament because what is the Opposition there to do? It's there to stop the Government getting things done. And it was willing to sacrifice a degree of scrutiny to stymie the Government's programme."

He said it would be "unreasonable" for pupils to start returning to schools in England - which could happen from June 1 in a phased manner - while MPs stayed away from Parliament.

Mr Rees-Mogg dismissed reports that the Tories were keen for a physical Parliament to return in order to bolster Boris Johnson when he takes on Sir Keir Starmer, following difficult sessions of Prime Minister's Questions against the new Labour leader.

It was a "completely trivial" point and claimed that Sir Keir's "Perry Mason approach to parliamentary scrutiny" did not work.

"It may convince a jury in a TV series but it didn't convince the British public," he said.

This afternoon, Mr Rees-Mogg is due to take part in a meeting of the House of Commons Commission chaired by the speaker.

Prospect, the union which represents staff in the Houses of Parliament, said a risk assessment had not been carried out for the return of all MPs and warned that Commons votes could take an hour to resolve because of social distancing rules limiting the numbers allowed in the lobbies.

Garry Graham, the union’s Deputy General Secretary, said: "Staff have made Herculean efforts to enable Parliament to work remotely, keeping MPs and staff safe and ensuring our democracy is unimpaired.

"It beggars belief that the Government would throw all of this away by forcing hundreds of MPs and staff to return to Westminster, putting them at risk and causing vast delays that will hamstring Parliament's ability to function effectively."