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Parliament's move to return to physical voting 'disenfranchising many MPs'

By Dominic Robertson | Ludlow | Coronavirus | Published:

Parliament's move to return to physical voting has been criticised by an MP currently shielding at home due to a long-standing medical condition.

MPs queuing to vote

Philip Dunne, MP for Ludlow, said the system, introduced by Jacob Rees-Mogg, is "disenfranchising many MPs".

MPs yesterday voted against an amendment which would have allowed continuation of some virtual proceedings by 242 to 185, and voted to resume physical voting by 261 to 163.

Images have been shown of MPs queueing throughout Westminster as they awaited their turn to vote.

The Ludlow MP said the virtual voting system should have remained in place while the coronavirus pandemic is ongoing.

He said: “Thanks to the introduction of the virtual Parliament, I have been able to vote, take part in debates and ask questions in the House, including asking the Prime Minister a question in PMQs last month.

"Although this system has very significant drawbacks compared with normal conduct of business, it has allowed Parliament to function.

"I completely understand why the Government wants MPs to return to work – as the country returns to the physical workplace, so too should Parliament. I also accept that physical presence is required to ensure the legislative programme can proceed through Parliament, for example so MPs can conduct committee stages of bills which is hard to do online.

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Philip Dunne MP

"But unfortunately the Government has decided to scrap remote voting for those unable to attend in person. I did not vote for this, when it was put to MPs in a motion before we rose for the Whitsun recess. For those who have symptoms or are shielding, this requirement to vote in person while we are still confronting the Covid crisis, is disenfranchising many MPs.

"This week I could not both return to the House of Commons and observe NHS advice to shield, so have been formally paired with an opposition MP. I was therefore not able to vote yesterday against my own disenfranchisement. I have made my view on this crystal clear to the Whips.”

It comes as North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson has been forced into isolation for the second time since the coronavirus outbreak, after family members showed symptoms.

Select Committees will be allowed to continue to meet virtually, and Mr Dunne said he will continue to chair the Environmental Audit Committee, which meets virtually tomorrow and will be broadcast on Parliament TV as it considers the scope for increasing energy generation from Offshore Wind.

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