UK Politics

Coronavirus: MPs approve voting from home

House of Commons Image copyright PA Media
Image caption MPs have been putting questions to ministers over video link

The House of Commons has agreed that MPs will be able to vote from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

A new digital voting system has been developed but there are concerns that it is not yet robust enough.

Some MPs expressed concern about the ability to verify who is voting and the alerts letting MPs know when it's time to vote.

The Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, insisted the arrangements would be temporary.

He also agreed not to hold any votes until after the Procedure Committee has reported on the system.

Chair of the committee Karen Bradley promised to write to Mr Rees-Mogg and Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle with the committee's view of the proposed system within two days.

She warned that there were "some real concerns about making sure MPs get used to the way this system works".

Shadow leader of the House Valerie Vaz emphasised the importance of making sure remote voting was secure.

"The optics of seeing votes going wrong is not where we want to be and certainly not the kind of House we want to present," she said.

However she added that MPs had to "move to a new position because of the pandemic" and said the opposition would support the motion.

'Votes cannot be avoided forever'

Analysis by Parliamentary Correspondent Mark D'arcy

For the next week or so the "usual channels" the parliamentary business managers, will try to avoid divisions, that is to say counted votes where MPs would have to troop through the Aye and No lobbies.

Forthcoming business will be subject to a "nod or nothing" rule, so that if, unexpectedly, someone does oppose it, and seek to force a division, the division will be postponed.

But votes cannot be avoided for ever - and a system to allow remote voting will need to be in place fairly soon.

Trials of a system similar to the kind of thing that happens when people need to change a password on something important like internet banking, have already taken place.

MPs would be emailed a link and texted a code number to allow them to log into a website where they could register their vote for each division.... but, I'm told, there was an 80 per cent failure rate.

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