House Business during the Pandemic

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:26 pm on 8th June 2020.

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Photo of Jack Brereton Jack Brereton Conservative, Stoke-on-Trent South 7:26 pm, 8th June 2020

I will not, because of time.

From the outset, it has been clear that more virtual proceedings are a poor substitute, but without any alternative, it was better than nothing. I commend all the work that has been put in by the House staff to make the seemingly impossible possible. However, we have now proved that we can return to some physical form, and I think it is important that we live by the fact that there was widespread agreement throughout this House that hybrid proceedings should be temporary when they were introduced. It is clear that there have been teething problems in returning physically, but we initially witnessed similar with both remote voting and hybrid proceedings. That should not be a barrier to returning physically, just as it was not a barrier to hybrid proceedings.

I can see that across the entire parliamentary estate very significant measures have been taken, in line with Public Health England advice, to ensure compliance with social distancing. I thank the staff here for their work to put the measures in place so quickly. Certainly, very large numbers of Members of this House, Members’ staff and staff continue to work from home.

I hope that we can also learn some lessons from all of this. The hybrid proceedings have had some benefits, such as the improved call lists for those speaking, and better technology allowing greater functionality throughout MemberHub. As always, the procedures of this House will continue to evolve and improve. I am pleased that we are now moving forward with some limited virtual participation for those unable to get here and proxy voting for those shielding for medical reasons. I am also pleased with what the Leader of the House has mentioned today about consideration of further extending proxy voting. I believe that it is about the right balance to ensure that such Members can still take some part in proceedings.

Our constituents elected us to represent them in Parliament, and as Parliament has met here in Westminster, despite a few interruptions, since 1295, and certainly in this Palace since 1512, I think my constituents in Stoke-on-Trent South expect me to represent them here. Of course, MPs have been extremely busy throughout this time. Not only have we faced the realities everyone has—childcare and others—but we have seen a massive increase in our workload. However, the casework is not just about the things that MPs focus on, and our work here in legislating for our country is the chief reason we have been elected to represent our constituents in Parliament.