Labour has rejected the “discriminatory proposals” of Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg who has sought to scrap remote voting and virtual parliament arrangements for MPs during the coronavirus crisis.
The opposition party has tabled an amendment to the motion being considered by MPs on Tuesday. The change seeks to retain the changes allowing MPs to participate in parliamentary activities from a distance.
There are concerns that the preferences of the government to scrap the virtual Commons would disproportionately affect MPs who need to “shield” as they belong to a Covid-19 vulnerable group.
Labour has confirmed that it will support “any reasonable proposal” that goes against Rees-Mogg’s moves against a hybrid parliament. Amendments by the Tory-chaired procedure committee is thought to have a better chance of passing.
The committee has recommended that some form of “should be allowed to continue while coronavirus restrictions are in place” to help MPs unable to make the journey to Westminster due to continued restrictions.
The amendment being put forward by Labour is also signed by the SNP’s Tommy Sheppard, the Lib Dems’ Alistair Carmichael, Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville-Roberts, the SDLP, the Green Party and Alliance.
Commenting on the new amendment tabled by Labour today, Valerie Vaz said: “Jacob Rees-Mogg’s discriminatory proposals would result in two classes of MPs.
“Those who can physically attend and those unable to owing to the government’s own rules, including having an underlying health condition or shielding responsibilities.
“The abolition of the hybrid remote parliament which allowed all MPs to take part regardless of their personal circumstances is discriminatory and would not be acceptable in any other workplace.
“We remain ready to work with the government and all parties to reach a consensus that would allow all MPs to participate on an equal basis.”
Below is the full text of the amendment.
Dr Stephen Farry
Mr Nicholas Brown
As an amendment to the motion
Leave out from “That” in line 1 to end of line XX [end of para 3] and insert
“(1) until the Speaker states that the ordinary conduct of divisions and deferred divisions is consistent with relevant public health guidance and advice and with the legal duties of the House of Commons Commission and the Corporate Officer or the House otherwise orders–
1. Standing Orders Nos. 38, 40 and 41A (save as provided for in the temporary order of 22 April (Conduct of remote divisions)) shall not have effect;
2. if the opinion of the Speaker or the chair as to the decision of a question is challenged, they shall direct that a remote division or, as the case may be, a remote deferred division, take place;
3. the temporary order of 22 April (Conduct of remote divisions) shall have effect;
(2) this House requires a Minister of the Crown, no later than Monday 8 June, to move a motion proposing arrangements for virtual participation by hon. Members unable to attend at Westminster for medical or public health reasons related to the pandemic.”