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Thu, 9 July 2020

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MPs vote to end 'virtual Commons' after socially-distanced queue stretches across Parliamentary estate

MPs vote to end 'virtual Commons' after socially-distanced queue stretches across Parliamentary estate

Jacob Rees-Mogg said MPs should vote in person.

2 min read

MPs will no longer be able to vote remotely after the government won its battle to end the 'virtual Commons' set up during the coronavirus lockdown by 261 votes to 163.

Members formed a socially-distanced queue snaking hundreds of metres through the Parliamentary estate after Speaker Lindsay Hoyle ruled that the traditional method of filing through the division lobbies was no longer safe.

Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg revealed on Tuesday that the Government had rowed back on original plans which would have barred MPs from taking part in debates remotely, introducing an alternative motion to “ensure that such participation is available for members unable to attend Westminster for medical and public health reasons related to the pandemic”.

Under the newly-approved plans, politicians will be able to continue contributing to debates via videolink but must vote in person, as a failure to do "does democracy an injustice”, according to Mr Rees-Mogg.

Shadow minister Liz Kendall shared a picture while waiting for her turn to pass through the Commons chamber, where MPs were required to state their name and either 'aye' or 'no', to vote.

Labour's Stella Creasy, who has just returned from maternity leave, shared the picture and tweeted: "From next week if this doesn’t change will have to do this with a six month old baby in tow because @Jacob_Rees_Mogg believes this is somehow what the public want. Apologies now to my colleagues for the noise and tears likely from us both…"

Valerie Vaz MP, shadow leader of the Commons, had argued the government's proposals would result in two classes of MPs, "those who can physically attend and those unable to owing to the Government’s own rules, including having an underlying health condition or shielding responsibilities".
 
“The abolition of the hybrid remote parliament which allowed all MPs to take part regardless of their personal circumstances is discriminatory and would not be acceptable in any other workplace," Mrs Vaz said.

An earlier amendment which would have allowed remote voting to continue - as in the House of Lords - was defeated by 242 votes to 185.

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