MPS RETURN TO PARLIAMENT
The Somerset Guardian, 22nd April 2020
This week, following advice from the House of Commons, Members of Parliament (MPs) have returned to Parliament but for many of them it is only in the virtual sense.
For the first time in its 750-year history, MPs will be able to ask questions of Ministers via Zoom following an agreement made by the House authorities.
Approval has been given to allow up to 120 MPs to take part in proceedings at any one time, while around fifty Members could remain in the Chamber under strict social distancing rules issued by the Government. A number of screens will be installed in the Chamber to allow the Speaker and sitting MPs to see their ‘virtual’ colleagues.
The decision to create a 'hybrid' House, the first ever of its kind, was taken by the House of Commons Commission to keep democracy intact during the Covid-19 crisis. However, Commons Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who chairs the Commission and initiated the measures, impressed that everyone returning to the Parliamentary Estate should take every precaution to safe, observing Public Health England advice and not taking any unnecessary risks.
The Commission has been told that once the delivery of the 'hybrid' proceedings is "judged satisfactory and sustainable", the House Service will work to extend the model to debates on motions and legislation and it will also be for the House to decide on any change to a system of remote voting in divisions of the House.
A few weeks ago, I conducted the first ever virtual Privy Council meeting, which was a success so I am confident, even on this scale, that this new system will work and we will be able to get on with Parliamentary business, even if it is not quite as usual.
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