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Wed, 25 November 2020

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The Breakfast Briefing: Lindsay Hoyle braces MPs for epic queues as Jacob Rees-Mogg pushes end to virtual Commons

The Breakfast Briefing: Lindsay Hoyle braces MPs for epic queues as Jacob Rees-Mogg pushes end to virtual Commons

The hybrid proceedings look set to come to an end.

4 min read

Your essential guide to what’s moving in Westminster this morning from the PoliticsHome team.

The big bust-up over the end of the virtual Commons comes to a head today as MPs decide how exactly they’re going to do their jobs now that the Government has called time on remote voting.
 
Ministers say the virtual/physical mash-up that’s been in place over the past few weeks is well and truly over, and in its place will be... queuing. Lots of queuing.
 
In a letter sent to all MPs last night, Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle urged Parliamentarians to show “patience” as he made clear that scrapping remote voting while keeping social distancing in place will see them forming orderly lines that snake right through the estate.
 
There will be call lists for those taking part in urgent questions, statements and questions to ministers, with only those MPs listed expected to be in the chamber at any one time to respect the “limit on safe physical participation”.

With just the slightest hint of despair, the Commons Speaker has publicly urged MPs to “break the deadlock”

In a huge blow for some of the more verbose members, Sir Lindsay warned: “It follows from what I have just said that colleagues need to ration their time in the Chamber, as staying longer than needed means that other colleagues may not be able to get into the Chamber to ask a question or make a speech.”
 
Despite warnings that the plan for a wholesale physical return will shut out MPs who are shielding from Covid-19, the Government is sticking to its guns, as Jacob Rees-Mogg made clear in a piece for us yesterday.
 
Pointing to the sacrifices made by essential workers everywhere, the Cabinet minister declared: “Parliament now needs to honour their work and serve the public by showing the same diligence and going back to work in ways which follow government advice carefully.“
 
But, as our Alain Tolhurst reports, there are rival plans afoot, with former Cabinet minister Karen Bradley leading the charge to keep hybrid proceedings going.
 
She joins a string of select committee chairs with an amendment on the order paper today which Sir Lindsay has said he is “minded” to allow a vote on. The plan says those MPs “prevented from attending the House in person by the conditions arising from the pandemic may participate virtually” - setting the stage for an almighty clash later.
 
With just the slightest hint of despair, the Commons Speaker has publicly urged MPs to “break the deadlock”. And, in a distinctly disappointed-headteacher line, he added: “Ideally, I would have liked the Government and Opposition to have reached agreement on how we should conduct our proceedings and voting procedures - unfortunately this has not been forthcoming.” It all makes for great copy, though...
 
WHAT WE’RE WATCHING TODAY
 
The Commons, naturally, where we’re getting two ministerial statements after 11.30am: one from Dominic Raab on the UK’s response to the Chinese clampdown in Hong Kong and then another from Matt Hancock on the ‘Covid-19 response’.
 
Then, all eyes turn to the wrangling over the end of the hybrid Parliament as MPs debate that Government motion on ‘proceedings during the pandemic’.
 
Priti Patel will lay regulations today pressing ahead with that controversial plan to quarantine all UK arrivals for 14 days. We’re not expecting a vote as the Government is using existing health legislation - but there are signs in this morning’s papers that Boris Johnson is already minded to quickly move on from a plan that’s caused trouble on the backbenches.
 
Worth a look on committee corridor today is a justice committee session at 1.45pm on the impact of coronavirus on the prison, probation and court systems - while US senator Tom Cotton appears before a defence sub-committee grilling on 5G security at 2pm. Then, Department for Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey is up before peers at 3pm as she’s asked about Universal Credit.
 
The usual Office for National Statistics figures on deaths registered in England and Wales will be out at 9.30am, with the Department of Health’s own daily update coming at 2pm before the press conference at 5pm.
 
The latest round of Brexit talks kick off this afternoon too, with UK and EU officials sitting down amid what looks, to all intents and purposes, like a stalemate. Why not treat yourself to some respite from a global pandemic by instead focusing on highly technical trade matters?


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