MPs to vote on Parliament’s working procedure on Tuesday
Following Parliament’s return from recess, MPs will vote on plans for future working procedures on Tuesday after the previous “hybrid” working arrangements lapsed in May.
Speaker of the Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle has called on MPs to agree on a working plan which will enable all MPs, including those who have been shielding, to continue to participate.
On April 21, MPs first voted to introduce a hybrid system, allowing them to participate either in person or remotely, and also enabling them to cast votes remotely. The motion allowing hybrid proceedings to take place lapsed on May 20, meaning that remote participation is no longer possible.
The government does not favour an extension to the "virtual" Parliament, which it says has proven ineffective since being implemented and wishes to push for a return to physical working. However, a large number of MPs are opposed to ending the current arrangements amid Covid-19 safety concerns.
The hybrid Parliament allows for 50 MPs to be present in the Commons chamber, with up to 120 dialling in via video-conference.
MPs will decide a way forward on Tuesday, using an unprecedented voting technique where they must queue outside the Commons chamber, two metres apart, before entering to cast their vote, observing social distancing throughout. The usual practice of voting in the division lobbies has been deemed unsafe by Public Health England, but with the hybrid arrangements now over, Tuesday’s vote must still be carried out in person.
Sir Lindsay said ahead of Tuesday’s vote: “I have had to devise a temporary way forward to break the deadlock - because the House must be able to have its say.
"It is not perfect, it will take time, and Members will need to be patient. But, it is the safest method I can think of to enable members and supporting staff to maintain social distancing.
"However, I still remain hopeful that colleagues will agree on a method of participation that enables all members to take part, especially those who are shielding, vulnerable or have caring responsibilities."
The cross-party procedure committee has tabled its own plan to continue running Parliament, which would allow electronic voting and remote participation to continue, a move which is supported by the opposition and a number of Conservative MPs ahead of the vote.
Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg is one MP who favours a return to physical working, saying that politics are "better done face-to-face, even if the whites of the ministerial eyes are six feet away" and that it was "no longer necessary" to keep the hybrid arrangements in place.
Writing on the Politics Home website, Rees-Mogg said that discussions were being had to enable vulnerable MPs to “safely continue to contribute”.
Shadow Leader of the Commons, Valerie Vaz, said that Labour would support the continuing of remote procedure to enable MPs to "participate on an equal basis".
Vaz added that returning to physical working would be "discriminatory" to vulnerable MPs, denying them the right to vote and resulting in "two classes" of MPs.