UK MPs vote for return to parliament after lockdown absence

Elias Hubbard
June 3, 2020

On Tuesday, the House agreed to reinstate a physical Parliament, despite a rebellion by 10 Tory MPs.

Boris Johnson has announced a government U-turn to allow MPs who are shielding to vote by proxy following an outcry over the treatment of parliamentarians with medical conditions or those who are looking after vulnerable loved ones during the coronavirus pandemic.

But MPs say it still blocks remote voting and limits participation.

Labour's amendment to reject this proposal was not selected by the Speaker, while the procedures committee amendment was selected but was defeated with 185 voting in favour and 242 against.

One by one and 2 meters apart (6 1/2 feet), they trooped into the Commons chamber to register their votes - a process that took 45 minutes in all.

However it was ordered that MPs should return today by the leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, despite social-distancing concerns rising from how crowded the chamber usually is.

But despite getting the support of 31 Tory MPs - including other select committee chairs such as Tom Tugendhat and Greg Clark, and former ministers such as Tracey Crouch and John Redwood - it lost by 37 votes.

It drew criticism from a number of members, who posted pictures on social media of the queue outside the building or in Portcullis House - a building opposite the Houses of Parliament where many MPs' offices are located. The government voted down virtual measures and was ridiculed over the "socially distanced conga" of politicians that snaked around parliament waiting to vote.

Under the plan agreed on Tuesday - which will be place until 7 July - Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has to come up with a physical voting method that respects coronavirus guidance from Public Health England.

In a series of tweets, Inverness MP Drew Hendry - who had returned today with a small group of SNP MPs to vote on the scrapping of the hybrid parliament and to speak on the corporate insolvency bill as a front bench spokesman - described voting proceedings as an "absolute farce" and an "epic shambles".

"With MPs present in Westminster, rather than scattered hither and thither, voters' interests will be better represented", he said.

Shadow Commons leader Valerie Vaz asked if Mr Rees-Mogg was "living in another universe" and questioned whether a risk assessment had been conducted for Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) parliamentary staff.

Rees-Mogg argued in the chamber that with a hybrid Commons in place "the House has not worked effectively on behalf of constituents".

Speaking to ITV Granada, the Speaker said he hopes there will be a solution by the end of the week, adding that it would be "sensible" to allow MPs who are shielding or over-70 to take part virtually.

However, this has angered many MPs.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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