Parliament must ensure proper scrutiny of handling of the outbreak – ERS
- For immediate release, Tuesday 17th March 2020. Statement from the Electoral Reform Society.
The Electoral Reform Society have warned of a potential collapse in government scrutiny amid the coronavirus crisis.
The ERS have called for Commons authorities to back ‘21st century solutions’ to the need for MPs to self-isolate, with MPs able to vote remotely via the clerks, or the tellers.
The Daily Mail report  that the Clerk of the Commons last night suggested that party whips could vote as proxies on behalf of all members. If confirmed, the mooted move could represent a ‘hammer blow’ to proper backbench scrutiny, according to the ERS. MPs may feel even more pressured to ‘toe the line’.
New emergency powers are expected to be brought before Parliament on Thursday, rendering the question ‘even more urgent’, the Society say.
Willie Sullivan, Senior Director of Campaigns at the Electoral Reform Society, said:
“The need for scrutiny at a time of national crisis increases, not the opposite. It is vital that Parliament responds to the need for MPs to self-isolate in a modern, democratic way.
“Rather than handing all the power to the party whips, this should be an opportunity for Parliament to modernise and introduce remote voting – with MPs feeding in their views electronically or directly to the clerks. Westminster’s set-up is already one of the most centralised, undemocratic systems among advanced democracies: this crisis must not further entrench that.
“Cooperation and scrutiny go hand in hand. Without proper scrutiny of these incredibly life-changing decisions, we risk lunging into ill-considered decisions.
“The delay to the local elections means there’s an 18-month gap between December’s election and a proper test of the government’s mandate. That means proper checks and balances should be bolstered, not torn down.
“Rather than silencing backbenchers and proper debate, let’s bring Westminster into the 21st century.”
Notes to Editors
The ERS are the UK’s leading pro-democracy campaign group, standing up for voters and a fairer political system.
The Society publishes high-profile research by experts, assessing the health of British democracy, and championing the need for proportional representation and constitutional reform.
Read the ERS’ new report on the 2019 General Election: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/media-centre/press-releases/report-on-decembers-general-election-reveals-scale-of-tactical-voting-and-voters-systematically-ignored/
Press releases: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/press-releases