COVID-19 proceedings in the Commons Chamber
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 proceedings; and
- New ways of voting, including an extension of the current proxy voting scheme.
A maximum of 64 MPs are permitted in the House of Commons Chamber at any one time. Social distancing measures are in place, in line with public health guidelines, that allow MPs to follow a '1 metre +' rule in the House of Commons Chamber while social distancing measures remain at two-metres elsewhere around Parliament.
MPs must wear face coverings when not speaking in the Chamber, unless they are medically exempt.
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.
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 means that all MPs can participate remotely in:
- Departmental questions
- Urgent questions, and ministerial statements
- Debates, including moving a motion
- Presentation of petitions
Remote participation does 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.