Parliament sets up electronic voting so MPs can pass laws without being in the Commons chamber for the first time EVER as Westminster prepares to reopen remotely tomorrow

  • MPs are to return to ‘virtual Commons tomorrow after Easter recess break
  • Only around 50 of 650 MPs will attend in person under coronavirus safety plans
  • Zoom technology to be used to webcast sessions and allow questioning 
  • Officials also want electronic voting measures to be in place ‘soon as possible’ 
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

MPs could be able to vote on new laws without setting foot in the House of Commons for the first time under coronavirus measures being planned for the return of Parliament this week.

Officials have backed proposals for electronic voting measures to be in place ‘soon as possible’ after Westminster comes back to life tomorrow.

Plans have already been unveiled to use Zoom web conferencing to allow MP to grill ministers while staying safely at home.

And minutes of a House of Commons Commission meeting last week show that they want to take further steps to allow voting to take place, subject to the agreement of MPs.

It would  bring the 700-year-old institution into line with other legislatures including the European and Scottish parliaments, and the Welsh Assembly.

However, Commons Leader  Jacob Rees-Mogg today signalled that the change is likely to be temporary and that the traditional running of the Commons would resume.

The new digital Parliament will not be perfect. Ministers will freeze, members will launch forth into fine perorations only to be muted or snatched away altogether by an unreliable internet connection’, he said, writing in the Daily Telegraph.

‘Yet we must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. This is only a temporary system and normal functioning will resume before too long. ‘   

Parliament is due to return to work next Tuesday and plans have now been agreed for a digital House of Commons 

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg today signalled that the change is likely to be temporary

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Commons Speaker, said the ‘hybrid solution’ would keep MPs safe and allow them to scrutinise the government

At the meeting last week, the Commission ‘endorsed preparations for the introduction of an operating model on Wednesday April 22 that would allow Members to participate in proceedings either virtually or physically in the Chamber, and which would ensure equality of treatment as far as practicable between those two forms of participation,’ according to a document posted on the Parliamentary website.

‘Subject to approval by the House on Tuesday April 21, the operating model will apply initially only to Oral Questions, Urgent Questions and Oral Statements for a period of up to 2 hours at the start of business.

‘The Commission endorsed preparations to expand the model to other proceedings, including motions and legislation, and to produce a secure system to facilitate remote divisions as soon as possible. 

‘The introduction of any such changes would be subject to the approval of the House.’

Parliament’s decision-makers last week agreed to ‘historic’ plans to allow MPs to grill ministers remotely.

The virtual House of Commons will have capacity for 120 MPs to take part in proceedings. 

But 50 MPs will still be allowed to physically attend and sit on the chamber’s famous green benches. 

The measures are expected to be approved by MPs when Parliament’s current recess ends and Westminster returns to work next Tuesday. 

Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle, who has led on the development of the new way of working, said the ‘hybrid solution’ would help keep MPs safe while also allowing them to continue to scrutinise the government. 


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