MPs urge Government to continue remove voting amid planned return to Westminster

30 May 2020, 00:05

Labour leader Keir Starmer speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons
Labour leader Keir Starmer speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. Picture: PA

By Megan White

MPs are urging the Government to continue with remote voting amid a planned return to Westminster next week.

The Commons Procedure Committee has put forward recommendations for a virtual Parliament to continue, stating it was the best option for MPs who were unable to come to Westminster due to restrictions caused by the pandemic.

The committee commended the so-called hybrid arrangements, which allow MPs to either vote remotely or in the Commons chamber, in a report published on Saturday.

The report comes as MPs are set to return to Parliament on Tuesday to decide on a new method of voting.

The committee said in its report: "It is unfortunate that the arrangements for remote proceedings were allowed to lapse on May 20, and that it has been necessary to recall the House to allow it to decide on how to conduct its proceedings while the restrictions on its work continue."

Karen Bradley, chair of the committee, said: "The hybrid House of Commons was an excellent achievement, and the procedure committee worked closely with officials to ensure that hybrid proceedings were as effective as possible under the circumstances MPs were faced with in April.

"While hybrid proceedings could never replace the spontaneity and cut and thrust of debate in the Commons Chamber, they were the best possible option under the conditions in place.

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"The view of the Procedure Committee is that some form of continued virtual participation continues to be the best option to enable all Members, including those unable to travel to Westminster, to represent their constituents.

"Dropping the principle of strict parity will allow this to happen, while restoring as much spontaneity as possible to the House's questioning and debate."

The committee expressed "serious concerns" over plans for division lobbies, stating it found "significant deficiencies" in the system which cast doubt over how it would work in practice.

It follows the announcement on Thursday by Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle that the division lobbies "are unsafe to use for voting".

Their concerns were shared by Public Health England, which advised that it would not be safe for MPs to vote in the traditional way of filing into division lobbies, despite measures such as perspex booths being put in place.

Ms Bradley said: "We have serious concerns about how the proposed system for divisions in the Chamber will work in practice.

"The House ought to be made aware of the detail of the arrangements before it decides on temporary division arrangements on Tuesday.

"If the proposed arrangements cannot be made to work, the remote voting system used in May, paired with voting in the Chamber, could be a workable alternative."