‘We don’t all have live-in nannies’: MPs with children and disabilities turn on Jacob Rees-Mogg for making them return to Commons to vote in mile-long socially-distanced ‘conga’ – amid warnings many will turn to DRINK while stuck in offices during lockdown
- MPs are returning from recess but ‘virtual’ arrangements have been dropped
- Fury that people shielding and parents are being prevented from taking part
- Voting will be in a queue up to a mile long branded a Parliamentary ‘conga’
MPs face a mile-long ‘conga’ vote today amid a furious backlash at Jacob Rees-Mogg over plans to ditch virtual divisions.
The Commons is returning from recess in uproar over moves to ‘normalise’ business despite the raging coronavirus crisis.
A ‘hybrid’ system to allow politicians to contribute to proceedings via Zoom while some remain in the chamber has been dropped, along with e-voting, as Leader of the House Mr Rees said the ‘halfway’ arrangements could not continue.
But MPs across parties with children or shielding for health conditions have been incensed by the new scheme, with one jibing that unlike wealthy Mr Rees-Mogg ‘not all of us have live-in nannies’.
Lib Dem MP Munira Wilson said she was going to Parliament ‘putting my husband who’s on immuno-suppressants at greater risk’.
One Tory MP told MailOnline that forcing MPs to Westminster with little legislation to consider during lockdown will leave them isolated and might mean they drink alone in offices.
Commons votes today will involve a socially-distanced queue that could stretch for nearly a mile around the estate, rather than using the usual rammed division lobbies
MPs face a mile-long ‘conga’ vote today amid a furious backlash at Jacob Rees-Mogg (pictured in the Commons last month) over plans to ditch virtual divisions
Westminster Hall has been arranged for a huge socially-distanced queue when MPs vote later on today
MPs will walk through from Westminster Hall into division lobbies under the arrangements
A ‘hybrid’ system (pictured) to allow politicians to contribute to proceedings via Zoom while some remain in the chamber has been dropped
Lib Dem Mp Munira Wilson said she was going to Parliament ‘putting my husband who’s on immuno-suppressants at greater risk’
A motion on changing the procedures will be voted on this afternoon using temporary measures brought in by Speaker Lindsay Hoyle. It will involve a socially-distanced queue that could stretch for nearly a mile around the estate, rather than using the usual rammed division lobbies.
Mr Rees-Mogg announced last month that the Government was pushing ahead with plans for a physical-only Commons after the Whitsun recess.
He has tabled a motion preventing the resumption of virtual voting that allowed MPs to have their say from afar during the pandemic.
Mr Rees-Mogg argued that democracy would ‘once again flourish’, having been ‘curtailed under the hybrid halfway house’ which allowed MPs to take part in debates and vote remotely while up to 50 were in the chamber.
He insisted that the Government is working to establish how shielding MPs could continue to take part. However, sources confirmed it will be to contribute to debates rather than vote, and will rely on finding a solutions that is ‘technologically possible’.
The proposal have faced fierce criticism – with the Electoral Reform Society warning it poses a ‘real threat for democratic representation and political equality’ if extremely vulnerable MPs are unable to vote.
Labour and opposition parties have tabled an amendment to the motion seeking to retain remote voting.
Former minister Robert Halfon, who is in the shielding category, said the proposals were ‘absolutely not right and democratically unjust’. He has complained that those unable to attend will be turned into ‘parliamentary eunuchs’.
Shadow leader of the Commons Valerie Vaz warned Mr Rees-Mogg’s ‘discriminatory proposals’ would result in ‘two classes of MPs’.
‘Those who can physically attend and those unable to owing to the Government’s own rules, including having an underlying health condition or shielding responsibilities.’
Tories claim Labour has been refusing to ‘pair’ large numbers of MPs because it believes it has a chance of defeating the government this afternoon. In a sign of desperation, Whips have reportedly been telling Conservatvie MPs that they should not cave in to pressure from people who want to stop Brexit.
One senior Tory MP warned that forcing people to attend Parliament even if there is not much business could result in a rise in drinking.
The MP said: ‘If people are stuck up in their offices all afternoon before an evening vote, it’s a hot day and the windows are open. ”Ooh, we’ll crack open a bottle of Sauvignon. Oh, that slipped down rather well, we’ll have another one.”
‘There could be one or two scenes.’
Sir Lindsay has said votes today will be conducted by filing past the left side of the despatch box table to vote Aye, and to the right side to vote No. They will pause at the despatch box to state their name and voting intention.
Votes on subsequent days will be carried out under the arrangements agreed by MPs.
Sir Lindsay has said votes today will be conducted by filing past the left side of the despatch box table to vote Aye, and to the right side to vote No
Senior Tories have complained that Sir Lindsay was ‘more keen than we were’ to resume physical voting, and initially regarded hybrid voting as ‘impossible’, but changed his stance after taking soundings from MPs.
Sir Lindsay said it was ‘clear’ that the House cannot conduct divisions safely via the usual voting lobbies, as it would be ‘difficult to maintain social distancing’.
MPs will be asked to only attend the chamber when they are listed to be called to speak during a particular proceeding.
In a statement, Sir Lindsay said: ‘While we will return to fully physical proceedings in the House tomorrow – they will not be the same as before.
‘Ideally, I would have liked the Government and Opposition to have reached agreement on how we should conduct our proceedings and voting procedures – unfortunately this has not been forthcoming.
‘As remote voting has lapsed and Public Health England have deemed our Division lobbies unsafe, I have had to devise a temporary way forward to break the deadlock – because the House must be able to have its say.
‘It is not perfect, it will take time, and Members will need to be patient. But, it is the safest method I can think of to enable Members and supporting staff to maintain social distancing.
‘However, I still remain hopeful that colleagues will agree on a method of participation that enables all Members to take part, especially those who are shielding, vulnerable or have caring responsibilities.’
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