Parliament to continue to allow remote contributions

Written by Sam Trendall on 4 June 2020 in News

Government drops plan to require all MPs to attend the commons in person

SNP Commons leader Ian Blackford talks on a video screen during Prime Minister's questions    Credit: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA Wire/PA Images

The government has dropped its plan to require all MPs to attend parliament if they wished to vote or participate in debates, and will continue to allow remote contributions from MPs that need to stay home for health reasons.

A motion to end the hybrid parliament and return to an entirely in-person system was due to be voted on by MPs yesterday. Even before it did so, the government had softened its proposals to allow for remote contributions via video link to reman in place “members unable to attend Westminster for medical and public health reasons related to the pandemic”.

The proposal that all votes must now be cast in person – rather than continuing with the electronic system that has been used in recent weeks – was ultimately passed, albeit in the light of bizarre scenes in which a socially-distanced queue of MPs snaked hundreds of metres around the parliamentary estate.

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But, in another swift U-turn, government will now also allow MPs aged 70 or those shielding on the basis of medical advice to vote via a designated proxy, who will be permitted to register their colleague’s vote alongside their own. This option will not be available purely on the basis of the location of an MP’s constituency – despite protests from Northern Irish and Scottish members.

Proxy voting has been allowed for MPs on parental leave since January 2019. House speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle maintains the list of registered proxies.

Shadow disability minister Vicky Foxcroft – who is herself shielding – told PublicTechnology sister publication The House: “This is a welcome, albeit partial, U-turn from the Government. Their chaotic and discriminatory plans would have left many MPs unable to vote. However, the hybrid parliament featured online voting, which worked perfectly well and didn't result in MPs wasting 45-minutes queuing when they could be helping constituents. This worked for everyone, including those who are clinically vulnerable, over-70s and those who may live with someone shielding.”

She added: "Returning to this model would send a strong message of inclusion, something many disabled people think is lacking from this government.”


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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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