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Staff lauded for virtual Parliament progress

29 April 2020

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Parliamentary staff who have been working seven days a week to introduce semi-virtual sittings in the House of Commons have received praise from the Speaker – and from around the world. 

Sir Lindsay Hoyle said he was extremely impressed with the ingenuity, loyalty and sheer hard work of colleagues to ensure the hybrid model worked – while Clerk of the House John Benger said his counterparts from across the globe had told him they were “very envious” of its success. 

Sir Lindsay spoke out after the second semi-virtual Prime Minister's Questions taken by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who this week deputised for the PM following the birth of his son. 

The project has moved swiftly from being limited to PMQs, Urgent Questions, departmental questions and statements, to include this week, the Second Reading of three Bills. In time this will also be extended to other business and could include a system of remote voting, if the House agrees. 

Mr Speaker said he wanted to offer a big ‘thank you' to the Broadcasting Unit, Parliamentary Digital Service, Chamber and Committees and in-House facilities staff, who have worked much longer hours than usual to come up with a solution that would enable MPs and staff to keep safe during the pandemic. 

He also paid tribute to all the other departments who have supported the fast-paced project, such as engineers, cabling teams, communications officers, catering and security. 

This place has always been a community, a village, which at times of crisis pulls together for the good of us all – and this is what we have seen in the build-up to the success of our hybrid House,” he said. 

“The talent we have here is astounding. We in Westminster see it in action every day - but when it matters, it is there for the world to see. I couldn't be prouder of the people who I am lucky enough to call my colleagues.” 

The hybrid model, which sees most MPs joining proceedings via Zoom, follows on from the success of virtual select committees that were held during the recess. 

The plan was driven by Sir Lindsay, who was keen to encourage MPs and staff to work remotely where possible, to adhere to the guidance of staying at home, protecting the NHS and saving lives.