Covid-19

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:10 pm on 22nd October 2020.

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Photo of Anne McLaughlin Anne McLaughlin Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Women), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Equalities) 3:10 pm, 22nd October 2020

I have had less than half the time that Jonathan Ashworth had, but I thought his speech was great anyway.

I want to talk about some other people who have been prevented from working from home—namely, MPs. We can participate virtually in question sessions, and when it comes to voting we can nominate a proxy, but we cannot participate virtually in debates such as these. I heard the Leader of the House confirm this morning that the virtual Parliament would be extended to Easter, so we will be able to speak in question sessions and nominate a proxy vote, but we will not be able to take part in the debates that are the lifeblood of our democracy.

I was interested in the so-called reasoning behind that decision in response, this morning, to my hon. Friend Tommy Sheppard, who again questioned why MPs who cannot be here in person cannot participate in debates virtually. His microphone was muted and there was a 10-second gap while that was resolved. The Leader of the House then used that as a justification for not allowing virtual debates, but he had just said that it was fine to participate virtually in question sessions. The question session that they were taking part in had a glitch of 10 seconds, but the question got asked and it got answered, and the roof did not cave in and nobody came to any harm. No catastrophe would fall upon us if there were such a glitch in a debate like this, so why does this place, which many like to think of as the mother of all Parliaments and a great bastion of democracy, silence the voices of MPs who, through no fault of their own, cannot be here in person? Worse, why does it silence the voices of their constituents?

Madam Deputy Speaker, I will stop there, even though I have a good eight minutes more, because I know lots of people want to get in.