Westminster risks becoming ‘England-only Parliament’ when virtual contributions end

Picture by Luke Stackpoole.

Plans to scrap the virtual Westminster and force MPs to physically attend the Houses of Commons risks “locking out” MPs from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the Electoral Reform Society has warned.

The current arrangement for two metres between people means only 50 MPs can attend the chamber in person, while up to 120 can join proceedings remotely via Zoom.

But on Tuesday Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg announced that MPs should return to the Commons on 2 June after Whitsun recess, to “give the right message” for the public to return to work.

However the three non-English nations are still urging people to ‘stay at home’, and Wales’ regulations currently rule out anything but local travel.

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said that Boris Johnson is ‘Minister for the Union’, while potentially excluding non-English MPs.

“Just as the virtual Commons finds its feet, the government are hitting the brakes,” he said.

“Virtual proceedings must be allowed to continue if advice to ‘stay at home’ remains in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Otherwise, this risks becoming an England-only Parliament, with other nations locked out. This is a grave threat to political equality and the principles of parliamentary democracy.

“MPs have shown they are able to work well from home. There should be no rush to scupper the successful innovations we’ve seen – from video-link to remote voting.

“MPs from across the nations have expressed support for maintaining the ‘hybrid’ proceedings until the pandemic is over. Closing that off unnecessarily will weaken parliament, not strengthen it.

“Speaker Hoyle has made it clear MPs and staff should not be forced to return until it’s properly safe and legal to do so. The government must not ride roughshod over these concerns.”

 

‘Safe’

The Speaker of the House of Commons, however, warned that he could suspend parliament if physical distancing rules are breached in the Commons chamber.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle told MPs: “My priority and the priority for all I am sure is to make sure that those on the estate are safe while business is facilitated.

“Nothing in the leader’s announcement changes the rules around social distancing in and around the chamber and throughout the parliamentary estate. The only changes on the guidance can come from Public Health England, I think we are all agreed on that.

“I may suspend sittings between items of business to allow members to enter and exit the chamber. I am also quite prepared to suspend a sitting if I believe that the safe number of honourable members in the chamber risks being exceeded.”

Hoyle also warned that any move to drop MPs’ newly installed remote voting system would increase the time taken to vote. “If the physical divisions replace remote divisions they will take much longer, possibly up to an hour, to make sure social distancing can be observed,” he said.

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Tim
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Tim

Westminster is falling apart in front our eyes

jones
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jones

All big empires,eventually crash and burn.

j humphrys
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j humphrys

Quite unbelievable! How long has it been since Brexit?

John Ellis
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John Ellis

Surely part of of the Westminster Bunterites’ agenda to disable devolution. They’re attempting to sideline and, ultimately, discredit the devolved governments; in this instance by attempting to nudge MPs to either ignore the law in their own countries or, de facto, lose their right to sit in the House of Commons representing their constituents. Thus ‘opening up a debate’, as they might say, that devolved governments enacting laws which can’t be obeyed without highly undesirable consequences might be better dispensed with! My hunch is that the next step might be one or two Tory MPs in Wales and Scotland announcing… Read more »

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

Elsewhere on this site we read of an English Tory M.P who for some obscure reason decided to hole up on Ynys Mon for the duration. Sounds like that lazy b**t**d is looking for an excuse NOT to go back to work ! Constituents in Lancs should be kicking up a good old fuss about his arrangements.

John Ellis
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John Ellis

This is a curious tale, and I wonder exactly why – very unusually for this site! – comments on the thread itself are disabled. Cautious lawyers, maybe?! And yet the MP in question, if we’re to believe what Ms Crosbie says in his defence, appears not to have broken any law, since he’s apparently been here since February, before ‘lock-down’, and has left the island only to travel as far as Ysbyty Gwynedd. So, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, he’s innocent of all offence! The odd thing though, as you point out, is that he’s here at… Read more »

Rhosddu
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Rhosddu

It’s impossible to tell if he lives in Lancashire or not, or whether his Ynys Mon property is his permanent address or a holiday home. The various Lancashire addresses associated with him seem to be Tory Party offices/surgeries. As you say, he didn’t contravene Welsh coronavirus rules, so a bit of a pointless article.

j humphrys
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j humphrys

No comments, Huw!!!

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

Plenty of comment flying about on other sites very few if any justifying his presence. Man doesn’t even have friends ! Might not have a seat beyond next election if he carries on like this.

Philip Jones
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Philip Jones

Seeing Starmer taking Johnson apart in a silent H o C with no braying donkeys behind him is the real reason.
And what a great contribution from two sycophantic Tories yesterday asking the PM questions about the Hay festival and Llangollen steam railway. Creepy and sickening.

j humphrys
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j humphrys

Thanks for telling. Shahmir Sanni says, that B’s whole class are incompetent, except in the matter of propaganda.
They hate the E.U. , civil service, the BBC, the Scots and ousleves. We should continue to bear that in mind.

John Ellis
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John Ellis

Is ‘hate’ the word? Superior effortless disdain seems to me to come nearer to it!

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

..and the creep M.P for Bridgend trying to direct criticism towards Drakeford only for Boris to claim that relations with the colonies are quite cordial, or words to that effect. Boy from Bridgend must rank very low on the Tory points chart, Boris didn’t even thank him for asking that question. Bullet in the post.

Phil Jones
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Phil Jones

Didn’t hear that, I can only watch so much of him before I have to go somewhere else.