Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle calls for 'virtual Parliament' to be introduced

Sir Lindsay Hoyle said Parliament should be able to operate "virtually" if the UK "is still in the grip of the coronavirus crisis" when the Commons is due to return.

Thursday, 2nd April 2020, 1:49 pm
Updated Thursday, 2nd April 2020, 1:52 pm

Parliament has been shut down until April 21 to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

But Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has written to the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg, calling for MPs to be able "hold the Government to account" during the coronavirus emergency.

Sir Lindsay said Parliament should be able to operate "virtually" if the UK "is still in the grip of the coronavirus crisis" when the Commons is due to return on April 21.

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MPs should be able to take part in Prime Minister's Questions and debates via video if they are unable to return to work, Sir Lindsay Hoyle has said.

MPs should still be able to take part in Prime Minister's Questions, oral questions to Government departments, to ask urgent questions and to hear statements being made, especially if it is "not appropriate" for them to be present in the House of Commons, he said.

It comes after more than 100 MPs backed calls for a “digital Parliament” to be established until the stringent rules were loosened.

The Speaker said a trial of virtual select committee hearings had already been successful, and he has asked officials "to investigate how they would apply similar technology" in the chamber.

Sir Lindsay urged Mr Rees-Mogg to indicate "as early as feasibly possible" if the Commons will return after its extended Easter recess on April 21, or whether the break will be lengthened.

The Speaker has also written to the Clerk of the House of Commons, Dr John Benger, regarding the matter.

Mr Rees-Mogg said: "Parliament's role of scrutinising government, authorising spending and making laws must be fulfilled and in these unprecedented times that means considering every technological solution available.

"We are exploring options with the parliamentary authorities in readiness for Parliament's return."

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