Members of the House of Lords have voted remotely for the first time following the introduction of a remote voting system on 15 June 2020. Members are able to vote on a smartphone, laptop or other device.
The move to online voting ensures that members of the House of Lords can fulfil an essential element of their constitutional role to examine and shape legislation whether they are in the Chamber or taking part remotely.
The first remote votes took place on Monday 15 June when the Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill had its third reading; and regulations on access to abortions in Northern Ireland were considered.
The House of Lords has previously moved to hybrid arrangements – with a limited number of members taking part in proceedings in the Chamber and the rest remotely. All voting will be through a brand new online hub which enables members to vote whether they are in Westminster or elsewhere.
Important legislation due to be considered by the House of Lords over the following weeks – where online voting may be used if divisions are required – includes the Fisheries Bill, the Agriculture Bill, the Pension Schemes Bill and the Private International Law (Implementation of Agreements) Bill.
Lord McFall, Chair of the Lords Procedure Committee, said about the move:
“The introduction of online voting is another significant step forward for the House of Lords. It will enable all our members to carry out their vital duty of checking, challenging and holding the Government to account as well as shaping new laws in these unprecedented times.
“It follows the introduction this week of hybrid proceedings. The Lords has been at the centre of efforts to examine all the health and economic aspects of Coronavirus since the outbreak of the pandemic through oral and urgent questions, debates and select committee evidence hearings. Members have scrutinised the Government’s response on everything from testing for Covid-19 in care homes to the impact of the virus on mental health services, homelessness and the museums and galleries sector.”
Image: House of Lords / Roger Harris