Virtually no problem: MPs to vote on continuing Commons proceedings

Published by Florence McCrae on June 2nd 2020, 10:10am

As of mid-April, MPs have been able to contribute to parliamentary proceedings from afar by the use of video link. This afternoon, they will vote on whether or not to continue such measures as the Commons returns from its Whitsun recess.

The government has said that parliamentary debate is "better done face-to-face", noting their belief that the current measures have been ineffective. However, critics have said that the proposal to disband the use of video links will exclude MPs who are vulnerable or who have existing caring responsibilities.

The current set-up allows a maximum of 50 MPs in the Commons at any one time, with a further 120 able to participate through video chat. According to Commons leader, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the virtual set up "is no longer necessary.”

"Politics is better done face-to-face, even if the whites of the ministerial eyes are six feet away," he continued.

MPs will vote this afternoon and will be asked to queue outside the Commons chamber prior to entering in order to ensure social distancing is practiced. An amendment has been tabled by the cross-party Procedure Committee to allow MPs who cannot get to the chamber to participate digitally.

Valerie Vaz, the shadow Commons leader has criticised the government’s plan, stating that the proposals have been introduced "without any chance for anyone to work out a proper solution". She believes that there will be a "whole range of issues about a group of people travelling across the country" including further spreading the virus.

Robert Halfon, Tory MP for Harlow, has said that removing virtual proceedings so suddenly is "democratically unjust" he continued that many will be left "parliamentary eunuchs" if the motion is passed.

On the other hand, Henry Smith, Tory MP for Crawley, has stated that the use of virtual proceedings has "curtailed my ability on behalf of my constituents to scrutinise the government".

He concluded: "We can't put our system of democracy on hold forever, and as the rest of the country starts to unlock, I think it's only right that MPs should as well."

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Florence McCrae
Literary Editor
June 2nd 2020, 10:10am

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