Procedure Committee writes to Speaker giving view on remote voting system

06 May 2020

Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP, Chair of the Commons Procedure Committee, has written to the Speaker of the House of Commons setting out the Committee’s view on the proposed temporary system of remote voting in the House of Commons.

The letter comes following motions passed in the House to approve a system of remote voting on 22 April. Introducing the debate on the motions, the Leader of the House of Commons, Rt Hon Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, gave a commitment that the Government would not designate any business as subject to remote voting until the Procedure Committee had given its view on the proposed system.

The letter, addressed to the Speaker, Rt Hon Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP, indicates that the Committee is “satisfied that the proposed system is suitable for use by the House in recording the votes of Members in remote divisions or remote deferred divisions”, but only “for as long as those temporary orders [agreed to by the House on 22 April] have effect.”

In the correspondence, the Committee made a number of observations on the system of remote voting:

  • The system is based on the existing MemberHub platform, which is presently used for the remote tabling of questions and motions by Members and by accredited staff. Access to the system is via a single sign-on, with multi-factor authentication. The Committee is satisfied with the assurances it has been given about the security of the system.
  • Members who by their actions facilitate a non-Member to cast a vote in a division of the House are very likely to be found to have committed a contempt of the House and to have breached the Code of Conduct, and can expect to be punished accordingly.
  • The first use of the new system ought to be on a motion which does not relate to legislation: in the absence of Opposition business, a division on a non-legislative Government motion would be suitable.
  • Where Members have genuine difficulties with accessing the system remotely, arrangements have been put in place for votes to be recorded manually.
  • In the event of issues being identified with the remote system, the Speaker and his deputies have the power to add time to, or to cancel and re-run, a remote division.
  • Members taking parental absence who have registered for proxy votes can suspend the proxy vote in order to be able to vote remotely in person.

Chair of the Procedure Committee,Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP, said:

"The House of Commons Service and the Parliamentary Digital Service continue to do excellent work to ensure that the House of Commons can exercise its core democratic functions during the extraordinary conditions of this pandemic."
“I have written to the Speaker and the Leader of the House to give the Procedure Committee’s view on the workability of the remote voting system. The system has been rapidly developed by the Digital Service to meet an urgent requirement of the House. The Committee is satisfied that the proposed system is suitable for use as a temporary measure during the pandemic.
“The Procedure Committee will keep the operation of the system under review, and will make a fuller report to the House in due course.”
  • Read the full letter to the Speaker from the Committee here.

The Committee’s inquiry into House of Commons procedure under coronavirus restriction continues. It will continue to accept evidence until Thursday 14th May: the period will be extended if the House chooses to extend any procedures relating to remote participation in proceedings.

Image credit: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

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