COVID-19 proceedings in the Commons Chamber
Changes were made to ensure the House of Commons Chamber complied with public health guidelines relating to the coronavirus pandemic and that social distancing measures were in place.
The House of Commons made some changes to the way MPs could participate in parliamentary business in the Chamber during the coronavirus pandemic.
The four main changes were:
- 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 proceedings; and
- New ways of voting, including an extension of the exiting proxy voting scheme.
A maximum of 64 MPs were permitted in the House of Commons Chamber at any one time. Social distancing measures were in place, in line with public health guidelines, that allowed MPs to follow a '1 metre +' rule in the House of Commons Chamber while social distancing measures remained at two-metres elsewhere around Parliament.
MPs wore face coverings when not speaking in the Chamber, unless they were medically exempt.
The Speaker could suspend the sitting for brief periods between items of business to allow MPs to safely leave or enter the Chamber.
Call lists were lists of the MPs that would be invited to speak in each item of parliamentary business. They assisted the Speaker in managing attendance in the Chamber and virtual participation.
Call lists were 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 also reflected overall party balance and indicated whether MPs were participating physically or virtually.
When the House of Commons was recalled on 30 December 2020, MPs agreed to extend remote participation in proceedings in the Chamber to all MPs.
This meant that all MPs could participate remotely in:
- Departmental questions
- Urgent questions, and ministerial statements
- Debates, including moving a motion
- Presentation of petitions
Remote participation did not include participation in votes.
Before 30 December 2020, remote particpation was only available to some MPs who had self-certified as unable to attend Westminster for medical or public health reasons related to the pandemic. Remote participation for those MPs was limited to participation in Questions, Urgent Questions and ministerial Statements.
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.