Speaker Lindsay Hoyle tells MPs to ‘stay away’ from House of Commons after calling for a ‘virtual’ Parliament
- Sir Lindsay Hoyle has urged Ministers not to put themselves and staff at risk
- Told MPs to stay home rather than travel to Westminster when Commons returns
- Comes after he urged Government to find ways for Parliament to sit remotely
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle last night urged Ministers to ‘stay away’ from the House of Commons when it re-opens this week.
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Sir Lindsay warned MPs to stay at home rather than journey to Westminster.
This comes after Sir Lindsay asked the Government to investigate ways of allowing Parliament to sit remotely using online technology when it returns.
Sir Lindsay warned MPs to stay at home rather than journey to Westminster
Sir Lindsay writes in The Sunday Telegraph: ‘I know some colleagues will feel it is their right to be seen to be present, but I would urge them to stay away.
‘For every Member who turns up to Parliament, staff have to come in to support them, which goes against everything we are being told to do. I do not want MPs and House staff putting themselves at risk.
‘After all, there is no benefit to being here physically. Under this new – and temporary – measure, MPs in the chamber will have no more advantage.’
MPs are set to take part in Commons proceedings remotely when Parliament returns next week – although around 50 at a time will still be able to sit on the green benches in the Palace of Westminster.
The Commons will use Zoom to allow 120 MPs to take part in proceedings remotely, while those who continue to attend the Palace of Westminster will obey strict social distancing rules.
Experts from the National Cyber Security Centre have told the Commons authorities the use of Zoom will be appropriate for the hearings as long as the application’s use is carefully managed.
The unprecedented step towards a ‘hybrid’ house was taken by the Commons Commission to keep parliamentary democracy going during the coronavirus crisis.
The Commons will use Zoom to allow 120 MPs to take part in proceedings remotely, while those who continue to attend the Palace of Westminster will obey strict social distancing rules
The plan still needs to be approved by MPs when Parliament returns from the Easter break on April 21.
The Speaker said: ‘By initiating a hybrid solution, with steps towards an entirely virtual Parliament, we are enabling members to stay close to their communities, while continuing their important work scrutinising the Government.
‘I do not want members and House staff putting themselves at risk.
‘By working virtually, this is our contribution to the guidance of stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.’
Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg added: ‘These measures will make it possible for Parliament to continue its work of conducting scrutiny, authorising spending and making laws – all of which are essential to tackling coronavirus.
‘I am extremely grateful to Mr Speaker for showing the leadership necessary to make this happen; to the parties, who have worked together constructively to ensure next week’s business will run smoothly with the minimal necessary attendance in Westminster; and to House staff, for working so hard over the Easter break to make these changes technically possible.’
If the new measures are agreed, it will mean from Wednesday April 22 some MPs will be able to take part in Prime Minister’s Questions, any urgent questions and statements via video link for the first two hours of each sitting day.
If the system works, it could be extended at a later date so that MPs can take part in debates on motions and legislation from home.
But it will also be up to MPs to decide on any shift to a system of remote voting.
A number of screens will be placed around the Commons chamber to allow the Speaker and MPs in Westminster to be able to see their homeworking colleagues.
Those joining by Zoom will be expected not to display or draw attention to objects to illustrate their contributions, following the same rules as MPs in Parliament.