MPs to pack Commons chamber for first time since pandemic for Afghanistan debate – but will STILL be asked to wear masks


MPS will tomorrow cram back into a packed Commons chamber for the first time since the pandemic began for an emergency debate on Afghanistan.

Boris Johnson has recalled Parliament from recess for only the 34th time since the war and is expected to open the session. 

MPs will cram into the Commons chamber as they did before the pandemic

An end to Zoom dial-ins means MPs have been forced to cut short their summer hols and troop back to Westminster to take part.

But despite almost all restrictions being torn up, they will be strongly urged to wear masks.


After 18 months of social distancing MPs will finally be allowed to fill the Commons green benches to capacity. 

There are 650 MPs but realistically only about 400 can squeeze into the cramped chamber.

Attending the debate is not compulsory yet given the international importance of the situation in Afghanistan it is likely the majority of MPs will return. Many were even in Parliament on Tuesday.

“Bobbing” – where MPs stand up to try to catch the Speaker’s eye for a question – is returning.

But despite the waiving of most rules guidance issued to MPs yesterday – and seen by HOAR – shows they are still strongly encouraged to wear masks.

It is thought many MPs will ignore this edict as they did when Parliament last sat at the end of July.


The PM is expected to open the debate tomorrow at 9.30 tomorrow morning.

Sir Keir Starmer and other Opposition leaders will also pitch in, before the floor is thrown open to MPs for five hours of discussion.

Soldiers-turned-politicans like Tom Tugendhat, Tobias Ellwood and Johnny Mercer – who have each been highly critical of the decision to withdraw – will likely take their anger to the Commons chamber in uncomfortable listening for ministers. 

Tory MPs are on a one-line whip, essentially giving them free reign to lay into the Government without any repercussions. 

A senior Minister like Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab or Defence Secretary Ben Wallace will likely close the debate at 2.30pm. There won’t be a vote.


Tomorrow will mark only the 34th time Parliament has been recalled since 1948.

Recess is a time for MPs to spend time in their constituencies – or put their feet up and work on their tan.

The last recall was in April so MPs could pay tribute to the late Prince Philip, but it has also been triggered to discuss moments of grave importance, like Afghanistan.

The 1956 Suez Crisis, the 1982 Falkland invasion and the notorious 2002 Iraq dossier all sparked recalls. 

Protesters were gathering outside Parliament on Tuesday afternoon