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MPs call for Parliament to be ‘moved online’ during Covid-19 crisis

‘In these exceptional circumstances Parliament must work exceptionally,’ the MPs said.

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The House of Commons observing social distancing last week (PA)

The House of Commons observing social distancing last week (PA)

The House of Commons observing social distancing last week (PA)

More than a hundred MPs have urged the Commons authorities to work to design a “digital Parliament” to allow democratic traditions to continue despite the Covid-19 social distancing measures.

Shadow business minister Chi Onwurah has written a letter to John Benger, the clerk of the House, signed by MPs from Labour and other opposition parties, calling on him to find a way for members to participate in Parliament online.

They said: “In these exceptional circumstances Parliament must work exceptionally.

“In normal times there is real value in members physically coming together, but in a national crisis when 30 million households are being instructed to stay at home and save lives we must show that we too have ‘got the message’.”

The MPs said Westminster is “not a safe working environment” because of the spread of Covid-19 and that parliamentarians should “lead by example”.

“Though change comes slowly to Parliament, in this time of crisis we urge you to work with Parliamentary Digital Services and our excellent tech sector to design in the next few weeks a digital Parliament in which all members can participate,” they wrote.

“Given the urgency of the task we recognise that will require using off the shelf solutions and may initially be ‘rough and ready’ but people up and down the country have made huge behavioural changes in a matter of days and we must show that we are capable of it too.

“With the help of our many innovative and ethical tech sector organisations we can deliver a digital Parliament which, through secure video conferencing, can maintain our democratic traditions in accordance with social distancing.”

PA