New Commons procedures under Coronavirus restrictions

05 June 2020

On Thursday 4 June the House approved motions allowing limited continued virtual participation in House of Commons business.

The new arrangements are expected to allow Members who are at particularly high risk from Coronavirus to apply for proxy votes, new arrangements will also allow some Members to participate remotely in questions, urgent questions and statements.

Voting this week

On 21 April MPs voted to introduce a hybrid system, allowing them to participate in the Chamber either in person or remotely, and also allowing them to cast their votes remotely. The motion allowing hybrid proceedings to take place lapsed on 20 May, meaning that remote voting is no longer possible.

Public Health England has indicated that voting using the division lobbies was not acceptable under social distancing restrictions. Following this, on Monday, the Speaker wrote to all MPs outlining a proposed socially-distanced voting system, which was used under his authority for the first time on Tuesday 2 June.

 Motions approved on Thursday 4 June

The House approved a motion to extend proxy voting arrangements so they apply to Members who are unable to attend Westminster because they are at high risk from Coronavirus as they are either in a ‘clinically vulnerable group’ or ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ group. You can find more details on these groups and definitions on the Public Health England website.

MPs in these categories will shortly be able to apply to the Speaker for a proxy vote.  More information about how to do this will be available soon.

A second motion also allows for some Members to continue to participate virtually in proceedings on questions, urgent questions and statements. This Speaker will permit this for Members who have self-certified that they are unable to attend Westminster for medical or public health reasons related to Coronavirus. In a letter sent to MPs on Friday 5 June, the Speaker set out some of the guidelines around self-certification and who is eligible.

The letter details how virtual participation will be open to Members in the “clinically vulnerable” groups, as well as Members who are self-isolating, or who have parental or caring responsibilities. MPs will be able to self-certify by contacting the Speaker’s office directly. You can read the full letter from the Speaker here.

The motion will have effect until Tuesday 7 July. It will be for the Government to decide if they want to table a motion to extend these arrangements beyond this date.

The arrangements, set out in the wording of the motions (full text available here – page 5 onwards), will not come into effect until Monday 8 June.

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