Sajid Javid has committed to wearing a mask in the Commons when it is packed on Budget day – but declined to repeat his call for Tory colleagues to cover up.
The health secretary said on Monday that wearing a mask in the crowded chamber is a “personal decision” for ministers and backbenchers.
The Cabinet member took No 10 by surprise last week when he told a press conference that Conservatives MPs should “set an example” by ending their stance of not wearing masks.
But he has stopped short of reiterating his advice, though he did say he will wear a mask when Chancellor Rishi Sunak sets out his spending plans
“If I’m in the chamber on Budget day, given it will be packed, I will be, yes,” Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“The guidelines are clear, it’s for people to make a personal decision on how they see the risk of them and those around them, and this is obviously a workplace setting, so it’s going to be a decision for them, but I can speak for myself.”
Current guidance introduced in England after their mandatory use ended this summer is to wear masks in crowded and enclosed spaces where individuals “come into contact with people you don’t normally meet”.
Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg last week insisted Tories do not need to wear masks in Parliament because with their “convivial, fraternal spirit” they know each other well.
Asked in the Commons about Javid’s advice, Rees-Mogg said: “There is no advice to wear facemasks in workplaces.
“The advice on crowded spaces is with crowded spaces with people that you don’t know. We on this side know each other.”
He joked that “it may be that the honourable gentleman doesn’t like mixing with his own side”, adding “but we on this side have a more convivial, fraternal spirit, and therefore are following the guidance of Her Majesty’s Government”.
Downing Street also declined to support the health secretary’s call to Tory colleagues, instead pointing to the guidance saying masks should be worn in “crowded, enclosed spaces where they come into contact with people they do not normally meet”.
That may change if the government moves to Plan B of its strategy to tackle coronavirus this winter, with a possible return to mandatory use in some settings.