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Speaker letter to MPs on pass-reader divisions

16 June 2020

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Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons, has written to MPs to explain how a new pass-reader system of voting will work.

Dear Colleague

As you know we are attempting to devise a system of divisions that adheres to Public Health England advice on social distancing – while also being effective.

The Chamber option has worked, but I was keen to see if there was a way to reduce the time taken by divisions. Therefore, I am very grateful to House staff, who have yet again come up with another innovative option at speed: Pass-Reader Divisions.

This involves having two pass-readers in each of the ‘Aye' and the ‘No' lobbies, enabling four people to vote at once in a socially distanced way. 

What happens

Below is a summary of how this will work. More details can be found here,and advice for proxy voters can be found here.

when the Division starts?

MPs will go to Westminster Hall to join the back of the division queue – at a two-metre distance from each other. There will be two queues starting in Westminster Hall; Members should join whichever is shorter. 

What happens when the Members are in the lobbies?

· As MPs pass through the required voting lobby, they should tap their card on either one of two pass-readers that have been placed there

· Once a Member has tapped their pass on the reader, they should proceed to leave the division lobby past the Tellers

· If a Member has any problem with the pass-reader, they should continue through the lobby and pass the Tellers. This will ensure their vote has been counted. They should then immediately email the Public Bill Office to let them know that they voted and which way, but that the pass-reader did not recognise their pass. 

What happens if a Member needs to cast a proxy vote or a Whip needs to nod a Member through?

· If proxy voters are voting the same way as their proxy they should tap their pass on the pass-reader once to register their own vote. They should then inform the Teller that they are casting a vote on behalf of the proxy/proxies, indicating the number of proxies

· The nominated proxy voter should then immediately email the Public Bill Office to let them know that they have voted on behalf of their proxy/proxies

· If proxy voters are voting a different way to their proxy they should tap their pass once on the pass-reader to register their own vote, and then pass the Tellers as normal. They should then pass back through the Chamber and rejoin the queue to walk past the Tellers on behalf of their proxy. They should not tap their pass on the reader.

· The nominated proxy voter should then immediately email the Public Bill Office to let them know that they have voted on behalf of their proxy/proxies, indicating clearly that the proxy voted the other way.

What happens when a Member leaves the lobby?

· Once they have passed the Tellers, they should leave via Officials' Corridor and not return to the Chamber unless they are a Frontbencher, or they need to be present for the next item of business. Members should not congregate at the back of the Speaker's Chair.

How does the division end?

· The doors of Members' Lobby will be locked after a minimum interval of 25 minutes – but the Speaker retains the right to extend this period if the circumstances demand it.

How will the result be announced?

· A Teller from the winning side will come to the Despatch Boxes to announce the result

· Results will be published on the CommonsVotes app and website as usual.


Warmest wishes

Sir Lindsay Hoyle

Speaker of the House of Commons

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