The Commons Leader also kept colleagues guessing as to whether he will wear a face covering at Prime Minister’s Questions next week, once restrictions have been eased. “Wait and see,” he told fellow MPs.
New guidelines, set to come into force on July 19, make mask-wearing compulsory for staff but only “encouraged” for MPs.
Unions representing staff based in Parliament have called on MPs to continuing wearing masks.
For Labour, shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire said: “Can I please encourage all MPs to continue to wear masks next week in the chamber and with social distancing, especially given rising rates, and especially given that young people in particular are not double-vaccinated.”
But Rees-Mogg insisted there is a “much, much lower” risk from Covid-19 due to the vaccination programme, adding that people should be allowed to make choices.
He went on: “In this chamber next week … well, looking around now, I think it’d be pretty safe not to be wearing masks – this chamber is not very full.
“If, on the other hand, we were to have a Budget Day special – which I’m not announcing as business – then I think people might feel the closeness, the proximity of the House would make a mask sensible.
“That is something we can decide for ourselves because, after all, we, as legislators, are asked to make decisions for the country at large, surely we have the mental capacity to work out whether or not it is suitable to wear a mask.”
SNP MP Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) later asked: “Can we take it from the Leader’s comments, and indeed his response to the shadow leader, that, if this chamber is indeed a crowded place next week at Prime Minister’s Questions, he will be following his own Government’s advice and wearing a mask?”
Rees-Mogg replied: “Wait and see.”