Voting procedures in the House of Commons
3 June 2020
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. On 2 June, MPs voted on the proceedings during the pandemic motion.
On 28 May, the Speaker approved a request from the Government that the House be recalled for an earlier sitting on Tuesday 2 June, beginning at 11.30am (instead of 2.30pm). The purpose of the recall is for the Government to bring forward a motion so that the House can take a decision on the form divisions should take. On 2 June, MPs voted against Amendment (d) to the motion on proceedings during the pandemic with 242 to 185 votes. MPs voted to approve the Government motion to pass with 261 to 16 votes.
- You can see more information in the Order Paper here.
- Read the Speaker's letter to MPs on recall here.
- Read the Speaker's letter to MPs here.
- Read the Guidance for MPs on voting here.
At present, there is no method for physical divisions sanctioned by the House, other than the tradition method via the voting lobbies. Public Health England has indicated that voting using the lobbies is not acceptable under social distancing restrictions.
The Speaker has now written to all MPs outlining a proposed voting system, which will be used under his authority, should a Division be required, on Tuesday 2 June. Divisions on subsequent days will be carried out under arrangements agreed by the House on 2 June.
- Voting lobbies will not be used.
- When a Division is called, Tellers will position themselves either side at the back of the Speaker's chair.
- The queue will file out of the Chamber along a pre-defined route. MPs will be at 2m distance from one another.
- MPs will go to Westminster Hall to join the back of the queue once a Division is called.
- The Speaker will signal for MPs to begin moving forward.
- MPs will file past the left side of the Table to vote aye, and the right side of the Table to vote No.
- At the Despatch Box the MP will pause, and state their name and how they are voting.
- MPs will then file out of the Chamber and disperse.
- The whole process should take an estimated 30 minutes.
- The result will be available straight away but there will be a delay in producing the list of names.
- Voting will be broadcast on Parliament TV.
- MPs casting a proxy vote on behalf of another MP will declare at the Despatch Box that they are voting on behalf of another MP.
- If another Division is call immediately afterwards, there will be a 5 minute suspension to avoid the risk of accidental double voting.
Overview of the proposed voting process
Statement from Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons
Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons, said:
"While we will return to fully physical proceedings in the House tomorrow – they will not be the same as before.
"Ideally, I would have liked the Government and Opposition to have reached agreement on how we should conduct our proceedings and voting procedures - unfortunately this has not been forthcoming.
"As remote voting has lapsed and Public Health England have deemed our Division lobbies unsafe, I have had to devise a temporary way forward to break the deadlock - because the House must be able to have its say.
"It is not perfect, it will take time, and Members will need to be patient. But, it is the safest method I can think of to enable Members and supporting staff to maintain social distancing.
"However, I still remain hopeful that colleagues will agree on a method of participation that enables all Members to take part, especially those who are shielding, vulnerable or have caring responsibilities."
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Image credit: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor