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MPs react to remote voting poll

Katy Lewis

BBC News Online

The Liberal Democrat MP for St Albans, Daisy Cooper, has criticised the government's move to have insist on MPs voting in person in Parliament instead of having the option to do it from home - a measure that was brought in during the coronavirus lockdown.

A bill to not allow remote voting passed by 261 votes to 163 in the House of Commons yesterday.

Daisy Cooper
Daisy Cooper

Ms Cooper had to join a long, socially distanced, queue to vote.

"If they want to lead by example they should be embracing digital technology and reducing the amount of commuting MPs have to make up and down the country," she said.

"They should be reinforcing social distancing not encouraging MPs to travel the breadth and length of the country to end up being super-spreaders and putting their own communities at risk."

Meanwhile, the Conservative MP for Harlow, Robert Halfon said he was "ashamed" of his party after the decision.

Mr Halfon, who has cerebral palsy and has been shielding, said it was not fair on people like him who've been told to shield by medics as they're considered vulnerable to the virus.

He decided not to travel to Westminster yesterday, so had no vote in the decision about how the House would vote in the future.

'Grave concerns about transparency'

The DUP’s Paul Frew says “things are fast moving” at that the minute, adding it’s a time to “scrutinise further and deeper” the legislation the house passes.

He says he has “really grave concerns about the transparency of these departments, over the secrecy of which they are still conducting business and the way they are treating scrutiny committees with disdain”.

He talks about the “media interest” in a failed PPE order to China, and says the Finance Committee asked for “all emails concerning this issue”.

Paul Frew
NI Assembly

He says the committee received a number of emails, but says there were two days in which no emails were included.

Mr Frew says the committee asked for information about these two days, to which he says the minister responded that the email exchanges “between 30 and 31 March” related to volumes, products, specifications and pricing.

According to Mr Frew, the minister’s response added, “these exchanges were not regarded by officials as relevant to the committee's initial request”.

The DUP MLA claims “a BBC Freedom of Information request was issued on the same lines, with the same similar request, and the Department of Finance has refused that Freedom of Information”.

The North Antrim MLA says as an individual MLA, he “cannot and will not support accelerated passage any more for any further legislation that comes before this house or a committee”.

Shielding MP not going to Commons for 'virtual parliament' vote

Andrew Sinclair

BBC Look East political correspondent

One of the region's MPs who is currently shielding said he will not be going to Parliament after all today for a vote on its future.

Robert Halfon, Conservative MP for Harlow in Essex, was considering driving to Westminster to take part in the debate on the new voting arrangements and then immediately returning home.

MPs will vote tonight on how the House of Commons will work from now on, but they'll have to be there in person to do it.

But he says after talking to his doctor he will stay in his constituency during the ongoing pandemic and called the situation "very frustrating".

Robert Halfon: Government making MPs 'Parliamentary eunuchs'

Mr Halfon was born with mild cerebral palsy. He has since developed osteoarthritis and walks using crutches.

His fellow Conservative, Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg, has scrapped the temporary electronic voting system which has allowed MPs not to have to attend Parliament in person.

Mr Rees-Mogg has previously said the hybrid system of having some MPs in the chamber and others video-conferencing had cut the time available for debating legislation by around two thirds, and prevented "proper scrutiny" of the government.

"We will not be returning to the crowded, bustling chamber of old," he said, adding MPs would be returning to a "safe working environment".

Robert Halfon: Government making MPs 'Parliamentary eunuchs'
Conservative MP Robert Halfon has said the government is forcing MPs back to the Commons too early.