Members of Parliament are to be given an extended 24-day Christmas break until January 11, Downing Street has confirmed.
he House of Commons had been expected to sit from next Tuesday after an 18-day recess for Christmas and New Year.
Instead, MPs are set to be given another week off, meaning that the break will now stretch to 24 days.
MPs’ delayed return is in recognition of the fact that many parliamentary staff were forced to work through the festive period because of yesterday’s recall to ratify Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit trade deal.
It marked the first time MPs and peers were recalled over Christmas break 1998.
The delayed return is said to have been requested by Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle as parliamentary authorities try to halt the spread of coronavirus.
The House of Lords is still expected to return on January 5.
MPs are permitted to travel to Westminster despite London currently being under Tier 4 coronavirus restrictions, which require residents to stay home and work remotely if possible amid soaring levels of Covid-19.
Many of them chose to take advantage of arrangements to participate in yesterday’s debate and vote via video-link.
DUP Westminster leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said that when the advice is only essential travel and work from home when you can, MPs should set an example.
The Lagan Valley MP said: “We recognise that with London in Tier 4 lockdown and Northern Ireland in its own lockdown that there is a high risk in travelling back and forward to London.
“That’s why we have operated as a rota system in recent weeks, where a couple of our MPs go over and act as a proxy for the others and are able to vote on their behalf, as we did today in the debate on the EU trade bill.
“It’s true that we want people to be able to return to work where they can, but the advice remains to work from home if you can during the lockdown period. Parliament will resume in mid-January and many MPs will continue to work in their constituencies for the next week or so, so it’s not as if they’re doing nothing.”
But Alliance North Down MP Stephen Farry believes there’s no justification for extending recess.
“There are some crucial issues that require more immediate parliamentary scrutiny and the technology exists to facilitate remote working,” Mr Farry said.
“I am supporting efforts to defeat the Government’s plans.”
The SDLP declined to comment on behalf of its MPs Colum Eastwood and Claire Hanna.
Sinn Fein has seven MPs but the party does not sit in Westminster due to its long-standing policy of abstentionism.