Scrapping remote participation for MPs risks a ‘rump Parliament’

Josiah Mortimer, former Head of Communications

Posted on the 2nd June 2020

The ERS is calling on the government to back common sense plans for remote participation in the Commons to continue while the pandemic still rages.

The government’s proposals for ending remote participation – being debated today – 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 for potentially locking out disabled and shielding MPs.

The plans could also 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. It is a farcical approach.

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.

Make no mistake: 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.

It would be senseless to stop remote participation while the coronavirus crisis continues. 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 today. They must not be cast simply for the sake of reversing progress.

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