Britain’s House of Commons goes virtual from Wednesday, 120 MPs to join remotely
For centuries, the House of Commons witnessed raucous debates and rousing speeches as nearly 650 MPs sat closely to each other on the green benches, but from Wednesday barely 170 of them will be able to join proceedings, 120 of them remotely.
Sitting on sparsely occupied benches, some MPs on Tuesday debated and approved a motion that will allow them to participate in questions (including Prime Minister’s Questions), urgent questions and ministerial statements via video link.
The motion, which was approved without a vote, will allow members to participate either virtually or physically in the Chamber. A maximum of 50 MPs will be able to be present in the Chamber at any one time to comply with social distancing guidelines.
A maximum of 120 MPs will be able to take part remotely over the course of any ‘hybrid proceedings’, which will constitute the first two hours of each sitting. Under the terms of the motion, the House will continue to meet at its usual sitting times, but only on Mondays (from 2.30pm), Tuesdays and Wednesdays (both from 11.30am).
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab, who is deputising for Prime Minister Boris Johnson recuperating from cornavirus infection, will face Keir Starmer, the newly-elected Labour leader, during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.
Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said: “By initiating a hybrid solution, with steps towards an entirely virtual Parliament, we are enabling Members to stay close to their communities, while continuing their important work scrutinising the Government.”
“I do not want Members and House staff putting themselves at risk. By working virtually, this is our contribution to the guidance of stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.”