House of Commons in recess, not ‘shut down’

26 March 2020

On Wednesday evening after passing the Coronavirus Bill, the House of Commons agreed to a Government proposal that the House of Commons should begin its Easter Recess a few days early.

Recess

Recess does not mean that the House of Commons is shut down. Far from it. The work of both MPs and House staff continues during recess, they will be working in new ways to ensure we follow the guidance of Public Health England and the Government.

MPs will still be undertaking constituency work, continuing to help people through this difficult time. They will continue to deal with a wide range of casework, and many will be holding virtual surgeries in line with Government guidelines.

Select Committees

The House has already passed a motion to allow Select Committees to work remotely, so they can safely continue to scrutinise Government during this time of national crisis. Working together with Parliament’s Broadcasting Unit, the Parliamentary Digital Service enabled colleagues on the Health and Social Care Committee to hold Parliament’s first ever remote oral evidence session on Thursday 26 March.

Watch the session here.

Working digitally

Parliament’s digital colleagues are working hard with House staff to help us change the way we do things. As many people in workplaces across the world are experiencing, it won’t be perfect immediately, but significant work is being done behind the scenes to make this possible.

We are working hard to improve our videoconferencing facilities, not least because we require audio-visual output of a suitable quality for broadcast use and Hansard transcription purposes. Further work in this area is being taken forward as a matter of priority over the Easter recess.

We are grateful to all our colleagues as they continue to work hard to ensure Parliament and MPs continue to be able to represent constituents and to scrutinise the Government on behalf of the public in these critical times.

The Commons Speaker explains

To hear more about this work, listen to the Today Programme interview with the Speaker of the House of Commons about the ways the House is working to ensure scrutiny continues over recess whist allowing Government and officials to get on with tackling the Covid-19 crisis.

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