Conservative MP appearing by video link urges end of virtual Parliament

A Conservative MP called for the end of virtual parliamentary proceedings to ensure the Government is better held to account – while appearing by video link in the Commons.

Peter Bone told MPs that Parliament “isn’t working” and pressed for an end to social distancing in the chamber.

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg questioned why Mr Bone was not asking his question in person and said he hopes Commons proceedings will be “back to normal” with “a full and flourishing chamber” on June 21.

Jacob Rees Mogg
Jacob Rees-Mogg said he looks forward to the return of a ‘full and flourishing chamber’ (House of Commons/PA)

Restrictions have limited MP numbers on the floor of the House to 50 since last March, with many contributing by Zoom.

The number of MPs on the parliamentary estate has increased in recent weeks as the country begins to reopen.

Mr Bone (Wellingborough) told MPs: “I am afraid Parliament isn’t working. It is not holding properly the Government to account and it strikes me that Parliament should lead.

“So, could we have a statement from the Leader of the House telling us that Parliament – and particularly the House of Commons – is going to be restored to normal process and that we will end virtual proceedings?

“We won’t have hundreds of votes in the deputy chief whip’s pocket and we’ll have proper voting and we’ll end social distancing in the chamber.

“We really need to lead and get Parliament back doing its job properly.”

Mr Rees-Mogg replied: “A voice crying from the wilderness. I mean, I am tempted to say ‘physician, heal thyself’.

“Mr Speaker, where is (Peter Bone)? Why is he not in the chamber holding me to account, leading by the example he wants?

“I entirely agree with him – I am waiting with joy for that day when we are back to normal, which I hope will be June 21, when everybody will be back here and it will be safe and we won’t have to wear masks and the despatch box won’t be covered in Perspex and we will be back to a full and flourishing chamber.

“Because I agree with (Mr Bone) that scrutiny is good for the nation, it is good for the Government and it is good for our constituents.

“But I would encourage him to come to London, come to Westminster and take his seat.”

Conservative Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire) also asked about the return to Parliament.

Speaking virtually – adding that she had returned home for a personal reason – Ms Latham said: “Six people can be entertained outside in the fresh air in most places in the country, but not in the House of Commons, only two people.

“Next week six people will be able to enjoy hospitality inside but not in the House of Commons, only four people I understand in the dining room. I don’t know how many in the tea room or in any other rooms.

“Why are we so far behind the rest of the country when it is legal to meet people in groups of six outside this week, inside next week, but we don’t do it?

“When will we be up with the rest of the people of England and when will we be the same?”

Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle told Ms Latham there will be a meeting on Monday to discuss the road map out of lockdown.

He went on: “The reality is, and I will say this to her, if she waits until Monday she may well be happy and surprised and I’m sure that’s what we’d all wish to do for her.”