Tory MP: ‘What happened to electronic voting? It worked perfectly well’

Written by Sam Trendall on 28 January 2021 in News
News

Member of Procedure Committee James Gray encourages parliament to consider ‘innovations offered by the latest technologies’

Credit: House of Commons/PA Archive/PA Images

A long-standing Conservative MP has urged parliament to urgently consider which technological innovations adopted during the pandemic could help it function better long into the future.

James Gray, who has represented the North Wiltshire constituency since the 1997 general election, said that, before the pandemic is over and business as usual – theoretically – resumes, parliament should review the measures it has implemented over the past year. Failure to do so “risks a blind return to the old ways”, Gray said, in a piece written for PublicTechnology sister publication The House Live.

The MP revealed that he had recently “surrendered the last vestiges of my independence as a tireless scrutineer of Her Majesty’s Government” in allowing his party’s deputy chief whip to vote in the House of Commons as his proxy.
 
“What happened to electronic voting?,” he said. “It worked perfectly well, and at least it kept us involved with debates. The proxy system has removed that last degree of engagement.”


Related content


Gray serves on the House of Commons Procedure Committee that scrutinises the practices and operations of parliament. He said that he hoped the committee, alongside speaker of the house Lindsay Hoyle and the Commons Commission would undertake “urgent work on what we would like parliament to look like when the crisis eases”.

Such work should include considerations of the structure of the parliamentary day, Gray said, as well the role of urgent questions, and the possibility of forming a new House Business Committee. As much as anything, it should also consider how technology could support parliamentarians in the future.

“Would a wholly virtual parliament, including electronic voting, not give MPs more engagement and anyhow be easier to reform once the pandemic is over? Now is the moment when we should be turning our attention to what kind of Commons we want to see,” he said. “Should proxy voting be extended for all sorts of reasons beyond new parenthood which was the only justification before lockdown; should remote participation in debates become the norm; are speakers’ lists so convenient for busy MPs trying to plan their days, that that trumps the consequences for proper parliamentary debate?”

He added: “Let’s decide what we want, what is best for parliamentary scrutiny and legislation. Otherwise we risk just stumbling into it.”
 

Click here to read Gray’s full piece on The House Live.

 

About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

Share this page

Tags

Categories

CONTRIBUTIONS FROM READERS

Please login to post a comment or register for a free account.

Related Articles

Can government destroy its legacy?
20 January 2022

As much as half of government’s near-£5bn annual spend on IT is dedicated to the maintenance of ageing or unsupported tech. A range of digital leaders tell PublicTechnology about the...

Year in review: How technology defined 2021’s biggest stories
31 December 2021

Digital and data once again had a starring role in supporting – and, occasionally, hampering – government’s work this year. PublicTechnology looks back at the most significant events.

‘Reform is top of the list for 2022’ – Whitehall COO Chisholm
20 December 2021

Civil service operations chief discusses his priorities for the year ahead

Tech and data teams win Civil Service Awards
17 December 2021

Digital and data units from HMPO and the DfT are among the winners