Bid to extend virtual participation to shielding MPs is blocked on same day Johnson beams into parliament

Boris Johnson being broadcast onto a screen in parliament
Support us and go ad-free

A government move to allow shielding MPs to participate virtually in Commons debates has been blocked by an MP who said it does not treat them like “grown-ups”. This happened on the same day that Boris Johnson attended Prime Minister’s Questions via video link.

Not far enough

Labour former minister Chris Bryant said a government plan to extend virtual participation to MPs who are certified by a GP as needing to shield for coronavirus (Covid-19) purposes does not go far enough.

Deputy Commons speaker Rosie Winterton explained that Bryant’s manuscript amendment effectively represented an objection to the motion and, as there was no time to debate it past 7pm, it therefore fell.

She told the Commons:

Under the established practice of the House a selected amendment to a motion which cannot be proceeded with after the moment of interruption constitutes an objection so the motion cannot be taken.

Currently, MPs can participate in Commons proceedings virtually only in departmental question times, or in response to urgent questions or ministerial statements, and they cannot take part in debates on legislation or other matters.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free
Coronavirus – Tue Nov 10, 2020
Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg in Downing Street (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

On Monday, Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said the government plans to extend virtual participation to allow extremely vulnerable MPs to take part in debates until the end of March. But he said those living with someone in the vulnerable category would not be offered the same provision and faced pressure from MPs of all sides to go further.

Grown ups

Bryant said the government should table a new motion that allows “MPs to be grown-ups and make their own decisions” and self-certify that they are taking place remotely for any “public health reason relating to the pandemic”. In a subsequent point of order, he said:

The Leader of the House on Monday said that he was coming forward with the motion. The motion was tabled late last night without being notified to the Opposition or any of the members concerned, which is very, very unusual.

The motion is on the Order Paper this evening. We weren’t able to table any amendments or have any consultation on this whatsoever. That’s why I’ve tabled the amendment. It means it cannot go forward tonight. I understand from the Table Office that the Government has already said it will table exactly the same measure tomorrow [19 November].

I just don’t think that this is treating the House with respect. The honest truth is there should be no distinction between different members.

Lots of people have lots of different reasons why they would want to take part in debates.

He added:

If we go through this whole rigamarole tomorrow, and the Government tables exactly the same motion and I table exactly the same amendment, which I can assure you I will, then the motion will again fall tomorrow.

I think the House wants us to be able to progress that.

On the same day – 18 November – Boris Johnson became “the first prime minister in history to conduct his weekly question-and-answer session with MPs via video link”.

Featured image via ©UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us