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Speaker authorises ‘historic’ use of electronic voting in the House of Commons

But MPs were warned there may be technical hitches.

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Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle (PA)

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle (PA)

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle (PA)

MPs will be able to vote without attending the House of Commons chamber after Sir Lindsay Hoyle authorised the “historic” move to electronic voting.

The Commons Speaker said the use of remote voting will be temporary and may experience some “technical hitches” as it beds in.

Trials have taken place in which MPs have voted online in mock divisions, which included “That this House prefers spring to autumn”.

MPs approved the use of electronic voting last month but its introduction was delayed amid concerns over how it operated.

The change is part of measures taken in response to the coronavirus outbreak to limit attendance in Parliament and enforce social distancing.

It means MPs will not be required to walk through the division lobbies, as they have done for centuries.

Up to 50 MPs are currently allowed to attend the chamber in person while up to 120 contribute from their constituencies via Zoom, in a bid to limit travel and keep the chamber running.

Sir Lindsay said the Procedure Committee, which reviewed the voting arrangements, had expressed its satisfaction with the security assurances over the system following “extensive” testing.

In a statement to the Commons, the Speaker said: “I have also received confirmation that the Parliament information authority is content with the proposed system.

“With this in mind I believe we’re now in a position to take this historic yet temporary next step to remote voting into action.

“I am therefore authorising the use of this system of remote voting under paragraph one of the relevant temporary order.”

Sir Lindsay said he would make a further statement before any such divisions.

He added: “I remind colleagues that as with other aspects of the current temporary arrangements there may be technical hitches as the new system beds in.”

Later, during the weekly business statement, Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg told MPs the testing of the system had worked “reasonably well”.

He added: “I believe we will be able to vote remotely next week, so I’m glad to say that is in place.

“The testing seems to have worked reasonably well. Even I was able to do it so it is relatively straightforward.”

He also insisted any cyber attack was a “highly unlikely event”.

PA