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Report

How could a virtual parliament work?

The pandemic requires urgent co-operation between the government and parliament to allow essential scrutiny and voting to be conducted remotely.

Westminster

The coronavirus pandemic requires urgent co-operation between the government and parliament to allow essential scrutiny and voting to be conducted remotely.

This paper also calls on the government to legislate only where necessary while parliamentarians are unable to carry out business as usual, and for opposition parties and backbench MPs to call votes on only the most important issues.

The paper recommends that:

  • Parliamentarians embrace video-links and speaking lists to allow necessary business to continue ‘virtually’ in the chamber and select committees.
  • Proxy voting – already available to MPs on parental leave – should be expanded to reduce the need to travel to Westminster.
  • The government facilitates more scrutiny of its response to Covid-19 by negotiating with opposition parties to re-establish the Liaison Committee, or by creating a new body similar to New Zealand’s Epidemic Response Committee.
  • Methods for digital voting, as used in other legislatures, are urgently explored.

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