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Fri, 4 December 2020

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By Kieran Lyons
Coronavirus
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Press releases

Coronavirus: MPs set to approve 'hybrid Parliament' plans to grill ministers via video link

Coronavirus: MPs set to approve 'hybrid Parliament' plans to grill ministers via video link

MPs will vote on the plans when they return from Easter recess

2 min read

MPs are set to approve plans for a so-called "hybrid parliament" which will see them grilling ministers via video link amid the coronavirus lockdown.

Up to 120 MPs will be given the opportunity to question ministers on Zoom, including during a virtual Prime Minister's Qustions sessions, in an effort to enforce social distancing rules in Parliament.

It comes after the plans, drawn up by Commons authorities, were signed off by ministers and opposition leaders on Thursday.

MPs will still be required to rubber stamp the historic measures when Parliament returns from Easter recess on 21 April, but Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said he hoped they would stop politicians and staff "putting themselves at risk".

The Speaker said as many as 50 MPs could still attend the Commons chamber in person provided strict social distancing rules were followed.

In a statement, the House of Commons said question sessions, including debates and urgent statements, will be allotted two hours at the start of each day Parliament is sitting.

And they said that once the system is deemed "satisfactory and stable" they would look to roll it out further to allow for remote voting on legislation.

It follows demands from a cross-party group of MPs, led by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, for Parliament to establish the system amid growing concern over the government's response to the pandemic.

Announcing the steps, Sir Lindsay, said: "By initiating a hybrid solution, with steps towards an entirely virtual Parliament, we are enabling members to stay close to their communities, while continuing their important work scrutinising the Government.

"I do not want members and House staff putting themselves at risk. By working virtually, this is our contribution to the guidance of stay home, protect the NHS and save lives."

Meanwhile, the House of Commons commission, the cross-party group tasked with running the system, assured MPs they would be protected from any tech hiccups.

They said that for any MP that "cannot be heard or seen for technical reasons, it should be possible for them to be called later in the proceedings and that there can be no opportunity for interventions and no points of order should be raised when hybrid proceedings are underway."

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