Changes have been made to ensure the House of Commons Chamber complies with public health guidelines relating to the coronavirus pandemic and that social distancing measures are in place.
The House of Commons have made some changes to the way MPs can participate in parliamentary business in the Chamber during the coronavirus pandemic.
The four main changes are:
- Social distancing measures in the Chamber to meet public health guidelines;
- Call lists published in advance to manage attendance in the Chamber during parliamentary business;
- Remote participation in certain proceedings by some MPs; and
- New ways of voting, including an extension of the current proxy voting scheme.
No more than fifty MPs are permitted in the House of Commons Chamber at any one time. This is to ensure that the social distancing measures of remaining at a two-metre distance from each other are maintained.
The Speaker may suspend the sitting for brief periods between items of business to allow MPs to safely leave or enter the Chamber.
Call lists are lists of the MPs that will be invited to speak in each item of parliamentary business. They assist the Speaker in managing attendance in the Chamber and virtual participation.
Call lists are created by the Speaker's Office following a shuffle to produce a list of MPs. These MPs will either have previously submitted a question to ask during oral questions or have indicated a wish to take part in a debate. The call lists will also reflect overall party balance and will indicate if MPs are participating physically or virtually.
Remote participation is not available to all MPs. It is only available to those who have self-certified that they are unable to attend Westminster for medical or public health reasons related to the pandemic.
MPs who have self-certified will only be permitted to participate remotely and will be limited to participation in oral questions, urgent questions and ministerial statements only.
MPs who self-certify are generally expected to fall into one of these categories:
- MPs who are "clinically extremely vulnerable" or "clinically vulnerable";
- MPs who have a family member who is "clinically extremely vulnerable" or "clinically vulnerable";
- MPs who are required to self-isolate in accordance with public health guidance; and
- MPs with parental or other caring responsibilities where normal arrangements which would enable them to travel to Westminster are not available for public health reasons.
On 16 June 2020, the Speaker announced that divisions in the House of Commons would be conducted in the division lobbies using an electronic pass-reader system.