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UK: Virtual Parliament set to hold Government to account

21st Apr 2020
UK: Virtual Parliament set to hold Government to account

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking in House of Commons last month. MPs are seen sitting 2 meters apart during the session. (Credit: Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament)

By Hamed Chapman

London, (The Muslim News): MPs are set to back unique plans for a new “hybrid” Parliament Tuesday to allow the Government to be scrutinised and brought to account during the Coronavirus Lockdown.

The approval is expected ahead of Prime Minister’s questions on Wednesday when Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will deputise for the absent Boris Johnson while he remains convalescing at his country house at Chequers in Buckinghamshire.

Proposals to enable a form of online Parliament were considered by House of Commons Procedure Committee in a landmark report published Tuesday to for MPs adapt to restrictions under the current pandemic that has brought the UK and so many other countries to a virtual standstill over the past month and more.

Parliament had already been set to return from its extended Easter recess as criticism has been growing about the Government’s response to the Coronavirus outbreak while ministers have not been accountable.

The committee’s report, entitled “Procedure under Coronavirus restrictions: proposals for remote participation”, focuses on the detail of procedural modifications to allow questions to Ministers, urgent questions and statements to take place as ‘hybrid proceedings’ where virtual and physical participation are both possible.

“The Coronavirus pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on all aspects of public and private life in the UK, and the House of Commons is not immune to this,” Committee Chair, Karen Bradley, said.

“The impact on the way our democracy functions has already been considerable, and the House has responded with innovation and adaptation in ways we’ve not seen in its 700-year history”

The proposed model initially allows a maximum of 50 MPs to be present in the debating chamber, with up to 120 members able to take part in proceedings from their homes or offices via video-screens set up around the chamber.

In a bid to reduce the spread of the virus in the House of Commons, doors will be kept permanently open rather than relying on doorkeepers, while MPs will be asked to sit two metres apart and ordered not to pass any notes.

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