‘Virtual’ Parliament to begin running on Wednesday

Published by Rhys Taylor-Brown on April 22nd 2020, 8:08am

The House of Commons will operate as a ‘virtual’ Parliament for the first time on Wednesday, with Prime Minister’s Questions scheduled for midday.

MPs passed a motion on Tuesday to enable Parliament to function under the new format during the Covid-19 outbreak, allowing social distancing to be effectively practised within the Palace of Westminster.

The number of MPs allowed in the Commons chamber at any one time has been capped at 50, and they must sit a minimum of two metres apart.

Midday’s PMQs session will be the first for Sir Keir Starmer as Leader of the Opposition. Meanwhile, foreign secretary Dominic Raab will deputise prime minister Boris Johnson who is yet to officially return to work after battling coronavirus in hospital.

Johnson is currently staying at the prime ministerial Chequers estate as he nears a full recovery.

As well as the 50 MPs present in the Commons, a further 120 MPs will be able to dial-in and participate in debates via video conference, with visual screens erected in the chamber.

The new working arrangements will be in place until a provisional date of May 12 but could be extended depending on the progress of the pandemic.

Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg conceded that the arrangements were "imperfect", but stressed that they would only be "temporary" and that the purpose of the measures was to "save lives".

Health secretary Matt Hancock will make a statement in the Commons after PMQs has taken place. Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth and chair of the health select committee Jeremy Hunt will dial-in via video to hear the statement and will then have the opportunity to ask questions.

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Rhys Taylor-Brown
Junior Editor
April 22nd 2020, 8:08am

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