Covid: All MPs should take part in debates online – report

Covid: All MPs should take part in debates online – report

All MPs, not just those deemed highly “clinically vulnerable” to Covid-19, should be allowed to take part in Commons debates online, a report says.

Parliament’s Procedure Committee recommends changing the rules at the “earliest opportunity”.

It also suggests asking MPs to divulge their state of health could represent an “invasion of privacy”.

But the government says most MPs should still attend debates in person if they want to contribute.

House of Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg has argued that they should “behave as other key workers do”.

Currently, all MPs can take part via video link in Commons proceedings relating to ministerial statements or when asking questions.

But this right does not extend to speaking in full debates.

Earlier this week, Mr Rees-Mogg agreed to allow clinically vulnerable MPs to contribute remotely to debates.

But on Wednesday his proposal failed to get backing in the Commons, which was unable to pass it “on the nod”. Objections were raised, meaning it needed a full vote, for which there was not time.

The government is expected to introduce another, similar proposal in the next few days.

But the Procedure Committee is asking Mr Rees-Mogg to widen virtual participation in full debates to all MPs, arguing: “A requirement to disclose extreme clinical vulnerability to a disease in order to be eligible to participate in a debate appears to us to be an invasion of privacy.”

It adds that “is not appropriate to limit participation on the basis the leader proposes”.

The committee is also asking Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle to review the current system “not later than the week of 14 December”.

A government spokesperson said: “The government firmly believes that constituents are best served when Parliament meets physically to the fullest extent possible.

“The Speaker has worked hard with the House authorities to create a safe Covid-secure workplace for all who need to attend so that, just as teaching and medical professions are working in person to keep the country moving, so are MPs and peers.”

On Wednesday, Boris Johnson gave his answers via Zoom during Prime Minister’s Questions for the first time.

This happened because he is self-isolating after coming into contact with another Conservative MP who has tested positive for coronavirus.

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