Scrapping remote participation risks ‘rump Parliament’ – ERS

Posted on the 2nd June 2020

Government must back backbenchers’ proposals to protect voters’ interests and shielding MPs, democracy experts say.

  • Press release from the Electoral Reform Society, for immediate release: 2nd June
  • Contact Josiah on [email protected] / 07717211630. Spokespeople available for comment

The UK’s leading democracy campaign group has called on the government to back ‘common sense’ plans to continue remote participation in the Commons while the pandemic still rages.

The government’s proposals [1] for ending remote participation will see MPs forced to be on the Parliamentary estate in order to vote and speak up for voters.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission have challenged the proposals as potentially locking out disabled and shielding MPs. The plans could see huge queues for MPs to be able to vote in the Chamber – taking far longer than digital voting and leading to ‘chaos and confusion’.

The written list of who voted won’t be available for “a couple of hours” says Commons clerk Dr Benger, while staff will have to look at video of the votes to compile it by hand [2]. It is a ‘farcical’ approach, the ERS say.

The Procedure Committee – backed by leading Conservative MPs – and opposition parties have both submitted amendments enabling remote participation for MPs unable to attend due to health concerns [3].

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“Cutting off all remote participation without provision for shielding MPs risks leaving representatives locked out, and millions of voters made voiceless. This is deeply worrying, and must be addressed urgently.

“Both the Procedure Committee and the opposition have put forward sensible amendments today to ensure democratic participation is protected. Proposals for ‘kilometre queues’ are absurd and unnecessary when digital voting has worked well.

“It would be senseless to stop remote participation while the pandemic still rages. We call on the government to listen to the concerns of the Procedure Committee, shielding MPs, equality groups, and voters to avoid turning this into a rump Parliament where scores of representatives are unable to take part.

“There are common-sense compromises on the table – they must not be cast simply for the sake of reversing progress.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

[1] https://twitter.com/PARLYapp/status/1267456452601556992

[2] https://twitter.com/CommonsProcCom/status/1267477806688145408 and opposition motion: https://twitter.com/PARLYapp/status/1267483341802164224 Both enable virtual participation to continue, particularly for shielding MPs

[2] https://twitter.com/PARLYapp/status/1267470925429116937

 

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