A Scottish National Party MP has admitted putting hundreds of people at risk by attending Parliament while she was suffering from Covid-19 – breaking self-isolation rules at least five times.
Margaret Ferrier, the MP for Rutherglen West and Hamilton, took a coronavirus test after falling ill last Saturday, but decided to travel to Westminster on Monday because she was feeling better – despite the fact her test result had not yet come back.
That evening she was told that she had tested positive for Covid-19, but she did not tell anyone and instead took a train back to her home in the suburbs of Glasgow the next morning. Ms Ferrier later reported herself to the police and the House of Commons authorities, but did not publicly reveal her breach of the rules until Thursday night.
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Ms Ferrier has been suspended from the SNP while police and the Commons watchdog investigate her behaviour. The party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: “Margaret will be referring herself to the parliamentary standards commissioner as well as the police. I am tonight suspending the whip from Margaret.”
The MP could potentially face thousands of pounds in fines for breaching Scotland’s and England’s Covid-19 rules in at least five different ways. She failed to self-isolate while waiting for a test result; went on public transport; attended her workplace when she should have been at home; caught a train a second time, now knowing she was infectious; and failed to report her positive test to the relevant authorities in a timely manner.
Breaking Covid rules
She spoke in a Commons debate with dozens of other MPs on Monday, at a time when there would have been hundreds of politicians, aides and support staff working on the parliamentary estate.
Ms Ferrier said: “I apologise unreservedly for breaching Covid-19 restrictions by travelling this week when I shouldn’t have. There is no excuse for my actions.
“I have used Test and Protect and I have notified the House of Commons authorities who have spoken with Public Health England. I have also notified the police of my actions. Despite feeling well, I should have self-isolated while waiting for my test result, and I deeply regret my actions.”
Her behaviour faced a furious response from fellow MPs, the public and the trade union which represents train drivers. Labour’s shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray said: “Through her irresponsible actions, she very possibly has passed on the virus to a vulnerable person, who may now have Covid-19 and be in danger.” Former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson added: “She has to go.”
It emerged that Ms Ferrier had told the SNP whip on Wednesday afternoon that she had tested positive for coronavirus, nearly two days after receiving the result.
The House of Commons said that one person has been told to self-isolate as a result of Commons tracing.
Ms Ferrier previously called for Boris Johnson’s chief aide Dominic Cummings to resign after he was accused of breaching lockdown rules by driving to County Durham while suffering from Covid-19. She said: “The public health advice is crystal clear.”
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We are aware of the circumstances and are liaising with our colleagues in the Metropolitan Police Service.”
Speeches in the Commons
In between taking her Covid-19 test and receiving the positive result, Margaret Ferrier gave a speech in the Commons calling for a more robust response to the economic effects of the virus.
She said: “I start by paying tribute to all NHS key workers and volunteers in my constituency for their care and commitment over the past seven months.”
A number of other MPs were in the Commons chamber at the same time as Ms Ferrier, presided over by Deputy Speaker Dame Eleanor Laing. Health minister Edward Argar, senior Conservative Tom Tugendhat and ex-minister Steve Brine were among those present while she was speaking.
This story has been updated with responses from the police and MPs.