AN East Lancashire MP was caught up in a Westminster crush as he and his colleagues raced to vote on the day Parliament returned.

Burnley Conservative backbencher Antony Higginbotham was pictured in a crowd of politicians squashed cheek by jowl at the bottom of a House of Commons escalator.

Former Labour minister Ben Bradshaw, who took the photograph, tweeted: “No social distancing at all at bottom of Portcullis House escalator as MPs get stuck in a log jam. An absolute disgrace!”

Blackburn MP Kate Hollern branded the scenes ‘utterly farcical and unmanageable’ while Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said they were ‘absolutely shameful’.

Mr Higginbotham said: “The House of Commons authorities have done a great job at making adaptations around the whole Parliamentary estate, including one-way systems, significant signage and hand sanitiser stations throughout. There remains a limit on how many MPs can sit in the Chamber so everyone is spaced apart by two metres in line with guidance.

“Tuesday’s votes were the first using the new physically-distanced process and there were always going to be some adjustments needed, but these seemed to run very smoothly all-in-all.

“The picture Ben Bradshaw took was very opportune with that group of MPs lasting only a matter of minutes as the escalator was shut off.

“Importantly, and in line with government guidance, when it wasn’t possible to be two metres apart as - was the case at that moment - everyone turned side on so we were not standing face-to-face.

“Within a couple of minutes we were back to being appropriately spaced out, including using flagstones as a guide when in Westminster Hall, and on the third vote everything went as it should.”

A House of Commons spokeswoman said: “The House’s priority is to ensure that those on the estate are safe while business is facilitated. We have introduced new signage to ensure everyone observes social distancing guidelines, including posters, banners, and floor roundels.”

Mrs Hollern said: “The voting arrangements are utterly farcical and unmanageable.The layout of Parliament is not conducive to effective social distancing and queuing in this way is a huge risk of spreading the virus."

Boris Johnson told Sir Keir at Prime Minister’s Questions: “I do not think it unreasonable to ask parliamentarians to come back and do their job.”