- World Health Organization declares the coronavirus a pandemic
- The Chancellor announces measures to support public services, individuals and businesses affected by Covid-19
- Letter from the Chair of the Procedure Committee, Karen Bradley, to the Speaker concerning contingency arrangements for divisions
- Letter from the Speaker to the Chair of the Procedure Committee, Karen Bradley, concerning contingency arrangements for divisions
- Government introduce daily press briefings on the coronavirus
- Memo from the Clerk of the House, John Benger, on possible changes in House procedure and practice because of the pandemic
- The Speaker makes two announcements (2.30pm and 10pm) restricting non-essential access to the estate from 17 March
1. Cancels commercial banqueting and tour bookings, and mass lobbies and; restrictions to visitors to the estate.
2. Cancels non-essential access to both Houses from 17 March 2020; bars access to the Public Gallery; shuts down Members’ tours for constituents and education visits; reduces the number of catering outlets on the estate; refers MPs who have underlying health conditions, may be pregnant or are over 70 to the advice of Public Health England.
- PM statement on the coronavirus announcing closure of schools for most pupils from 23 March
- Chair of the Procedure Committee, Karen Bradley, writes to the Government Chief Whip about arrangements for select committee remote working
- Social distancing in the Chamber
The Government Whips’ Office requests that only MPs on the Order Paper should be in the Chamber for Question Time
- Introduction of the Coronavirus Bill in the Commons
- Westminster Hall sittings suspended with effect from 20 March
- The Government announces further measures on social distancing and the closure of pubs, clubs and restaurants
House of Commons agrees temporary order to:
- Allow Members of select committees to participate in select committee proceedings through electronic means of communication approved by the Speaker.
- Allow Chairs of select committees to report to the House an order, resolution or Report of the Committee not agreed at a meeting of the committee as long as agreed by the committee and that it represents a decision of the majority of the committee.
- To have effect until 30 June 2020 unless extended by the Speaker.
It is exceptional and I will run it until 1 pm. It will serve as an effective replacement for separate statements on the situation of coronavirus. I will allow the Leader of the Opposition two sets of questions—he will have a total of 12, which I expect to be taken in two sets of six. Similarly, I will allow the leader of the second largest party four questions, in two sets of two. I will also, exceptionally, call a further question from an Opposition Front-Bench spokesperson. In order to maximise participation, may I ask for short questions and short answers?
- House rises early for Easter recess (planned for 31 March 2020)
- Petitions Committee holds informal virtual meeting in place of cancelled oral evidence session
In light of the Government’s decision to restrict movement, the Petitions Committee will record an online session to put your questions to the Government about its response so far on coronavirus. A recording will be made available as soon as possible after the session.
- Education Committee holds first virtual private session
- First departmental Select Committee remote oral evidence session (Health and Social Care Committee)
- Speaker’s letter to MPs on social distancing in the Chamber and measures to facilitate remote scrutiny
“Whenever the Chamber is sitting during this exceptional time there are some measures that I will consider in order to reduce the number of Members required in the Chamber at any one time. For example, removing the convention that only MPs present during a statement can ask questions on it; publishing speaking lists so people know where they are in the running order and can attend the Chamber at the relevant time; and allowing MPs to submit to ask a question on a statement in advance, so a rota can be set up that enables MPs to only come in for their question.
Following the temporary order made by the House on Tuesday, I have now authorised Select Committee members to participate in proceedings through email, conference calls, and digital conferencing.
- Speaker’s letter to the Clerk of the House, John Benger, requesting information on the readiness of the House to return after the Easter recess
Please can you provide me with an update on progress and the timeline to connect MPs and Parliament together with different technology and ask the Parliamentary Digital Service and Broadcasting Team to prioritise the application of such technology to the proceedings of the House.
Clerk of the House:
The introduction of a further virtual element to the House’s formal proceedings would require a resolution of the House, akin to the resolution which permitted virtual meetings of select committees. However the House has already shown it is more than willing to change how it works in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, and the recent successful work – done at great speed – to enable committee sessions to take place virtually, shows the ingenuity and commitment of colleagues across the House Service and Parliamentary Digital Service.
At the first virtual House of Commons Commission meeting, the Speaker said:
I really hope we can return to work virtually and safely after the 21st, subject to the advice of Public Health England.” The Commission was also told that thanks to staff who enabled virtual select committees to take place during the recess, it would be possible to support as many as 20 virtual committee meetings a week from 20 April.
- Letter from the Chair of the Procedure Committee, Karen Bradley, to the Speaker on temporary procedural changes during COVID-19 pandemic
- Update from UK Parliament on the coronavirus
- Procedure Committee opens inquiry into procedure under coronavirus restrictions
I have approved a ‘draft operating model’ developed by the House Service for how these arrangements will work in the Chamber in practice. This document is now with the Government and main Opposition parties for review. The Procedure Committee will be asked to consider the model at its virtual meeting on Wednesday 15 April. The Committee is also expected to publish a report advising the House on its evaluation on Monday 20 April. On Thursday 16 April the House of Commons Commission will meet virtually to consider the model for approval, along with the views of the parties and of the Procedure Committee.
- Letter from the Speaker to the Chair of the Procedure Committee concerning temporary procedural changes during the COVID-19 pandemic
I welcome your Committee’s intention to continue to evaluate proposals for temporary procedural modifications and as a first step I look forward to the Committee’s comments on current proposals for Members to participate remotely in questions and statements. I will respond in turn to each of the issues you set out in your letter. My letter to colleagues of 14 April is also relevant to some of the issues you have raised.
- Procedure Committee report, Procedure under coronavirus restrictions: proposals for remote participation [HC 300 2019-21]
We strongly recommend that any changes to House procedures introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic should be strictly time-limited: a period of no longer than six weeks would be appropriate in the first instance. This period should be extended only by express agreement of the House and after consideration by the Procedure Committee. (Paragraph 25)
It is essential that the House be facilitated to continue its scrutiny of Ministers as soon as possible. We therefore recommend that the Leader of the House be permitted, exceptionally, to move motions to authorise the new arrangements at the first available opportunity. In this unique instance the practice of the House requiring notice of such motions ought to be dispensed with. (Paragraph 31)
- Commons guide to hybrid scrutiny proceedings published, version 1.0 (Intranet only)
- House of Commons returns after easter recess and considers Motion relating to Hybrid Scrutiny Proceedings moved without notice (motions 1-5 on the Order Paper not moved)
House of Commons makes orders for Hybrid scrutiny proceedings to allow Members to participate in questions to Ministers, urgent questions and Ministerial statements both in the Chamber, on a strictly equal basis. [Votes & Proceedings 21 Apr 2020]
- Speaker’s Statements on social distancing on the Parliamentary Estate and motions taken without notice that day
- House of Commons agrees motions on proceedings during the pandemic and on hybrid scrutiny proceedings
That this House is committed to taking all steps necessary to balance its responsibilities for continuing scrutiny of the executive, legislating and representation of the interests of constituents with adherence to the guidance issued by Public Health England and the restrictions placed upon all citizens of the United Kingdom, and is further committed, in pursuit of that aim, to allowing virtual participation in the House’s proceedings, to extending the digital capacity of those proceedings to ensure the participation of all Members, and to ensuring that its rules and procedures are adapted to permit as far as possible parity of treatment between Members participating virtually and Members participating in person.
Leader of the House:
Backbench Business and Opposition days are obviously important, and the motion does provide for those to be added. That will really depend on the technological capacity as to whether it is possible to extend the time available. That also applies to Adjournment debates.
- Speaker’s Statement ahead of first hybrid proceedings on arrangements for hybrid proceedings
- Motions on Select Committee Chair By-elections; PMBs; Hybrid substantive proceedings and Remote voting (Commons Order Paper)
House of Commons makes further temporary orders for:
Hybrid scrutiny proceedings to extend the hybrid model of participation to certain substantive proceedings of the House;
Remote voting on business taken in hybrid substantive proceedings.
Questions to the Secretary of State for Wales and to the Prime Minister:
- First MP to ask Virtual question – Marco Longhi (WO)
- First MP to ask Virtual question of the Prime Minister – Ian Blackford (PMQs)
- First MP to miss their question due to poor connection – David Mundell (PMQs)
Updated to reflect the decision of the House on 22 April to extend the scope of hybrid proceedings.
Daily business motion agreed by the business managers and party whips of the Government, the Labour Party and the SNP. This provided some certainty to the timings of any business subject to a vote. Under the terms of the Temporary Order of 22 April on hybrid sbstantive proceedings, this was deemed to be agreed to by the Speaker.
Leader of the House:
As regards electronic voting, all that is being done is temporary, and it is worth emphasising that. We would not have achieved the consensus across the House to allow these procedures to be implemented if there were any thought that it were permanent. It is being done on a temporary basis, and implemented as quickly as possible. I hope that we will be able to experiment with electronic voting on 11 May, subject to the Procedure Committee considering the proposals and to testing with a large number of Members to ensure that it works.
Updated to reflect the new deadlines for submitting a request to speak in Urgent Questions and Statements which have changed from those outlined in Version 2.0. See Section D and Section E respectively. It also outlines arrangements for Statutory Instrument debates.
- Letter from the Chair of the Procedure Committee, Karen Bradley, to the Speaker giving view on remote voting system
The Committee is satisfied that the proposed system is suitable for use by the House in recording the votes of Members in remoted divisions or remote deferred divisions under the arrangements agreed by the House on 22 April, but only for as long as these temporary orders have effect. […] The ParliamentNow App, which is in development is intended to replicate the content carried on the Commons and Lords annunciators, would be an important additional means of notification and the Committee recommends that it be rolled out to Members as a matter of urgency.
- Speaker’s Statement on new arrangements for remote voting
- First online ballot for Select Committee Chair posts (2 vacancies)
- Procedure Committee Report: Procedure under coronavirus restrictions: remote voting in divisions [HC 335 2019-21]
This report focuses on the use of remote divisions. There are a number of other improvements and changes that the Committee would wish to see introduced, including longer than two hours for oral questions, urgent questions and statements and shorter call lists for questions. We appreciate that there are technical limitations and that there is a desire all round to see improvements.
- Government announce Covid-19 alert level system
- Government publish ‘Our plan to recovery: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy’
On each relevant day, when the business motion is agreed, I will announce my provisional determination on remote Divisions for that day. […] Finally, I want to assure Members that I will keep the system under review.
Updated to reflect the new arrangements for (i) remote voting and (ii) remaining stages of a bill (report (consideration) stage and third reading). Substantive proceedings can now last up to 4 hours and 30 minutes (previously 4 hours) and suspensions between proceedings will now be 15 minutes (previously 30 minutes).
Leader of the House:
The motion extends the decisions of the House on 21 and 22 April to allow the continuation of remote participation in proceedings of the House and remote voting until the Whitsun recess on 20 May. It is my expectation that I will not have to renew the temporary Standing Orders again.
- First remote division in Commons Chamber on a general debate: That this House has considered Covid-19 (Ayes 363/Noes 248 )
Two items of business today are designated for remote Division. My provisional determination is that the remote Division will take place on the Question, That this House has considered Covid-19, and that the motion relating to Hybrid Proceedings (Extension of Temporary Orders) will not be the subject of a remote Division.
- Speaker’s Statement on the enforcement of social distancing in the Chamber, division lobbies and on the Parliamentary Estate during the coronavirus pandemic
My priority, and the priority of all I am sure, is to ensure that those on the estate are safe while business is facilitated […] I may suspend sittings between items of business to allow safe access to, and exit from, the Chamber. I am also quite prepared to suspend a sitting if I believe that the safe number of hon. Members in the Chamber risks being exceeded.
Leader of the House:
Holding the Government to account is essential and delivering on manifesto promises is also essential, and that is what I hope we shall be able to do after we come back from the Whitsun recess, in line with what is happening in other parts of the country.
- Agriculture Bill (Report Stage): First legislative proceedings subject to remote voting (divisions 42, 43 & 44)
Madame Deputy Speaker:
I have been informed that a small number of Members have inadvertently cast their votes, by electronic means, in the opposite way to the one in which they intended to vote. I am informed that their use of technology was not quite as good as they felt it ought to be and that a few Members have made a mistake. There is no provision under the current temporary system by which a Member can change their vote once it has been cast, but I am satisfied that even if a small number of votes had been cast in a different way it does not affect the result of the Division. (Division 42)
Following its meeting on 19 May, the Commission agreed that:
Public Health England is to be asked to confirm in writing the advice it has given to parliamentary authorities to ensure current social distancing measures are appropriate;
MPs’ staff and House staff should continue to work remotely and should not return to the estate;
The House Service continues to develop scalable plans on staffing and social distancing measures to meet the needs of the House if these should change in the future.
- Motion to allow for hybrid proceedings lapses
- Urgent Question on the conduct of business after the Whitsun recess
Leader of the House:
In line with Government advice for those who cannot do their jobs from home, I am asking Members to return to their place of work after Whitsun. […] We will be observing social distancing. […] Mr Speaker, you organised the test of a new system for Divisions that will ensure Members can vote while remaining 6 feet apart. We will minimise the number of other passholders on the estate, strongly encouraging MPs’ staff and others to continue working from home.
As Parliament considers returning to Westminster, we urge you to ensure all citizens can continue to be represented in parliament through ensuring no MP is unable to participate due to health or caring commitments that have arisen as a direct result of the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
As you are probably aware, I have been insistent that we do not allow more than 50 MPs in the Chamber, while PHE guidelines on social distancing remain at two metres. Indeed, I will suspend the sitting if we exceed that number, or it is clear that social distancing is not being maintained. I have also been very clear that Members’ staff, and House staff, who can work remotely should continue to do so – they should not be returning to the estate, or their constituency offices.
Parliament to be recalled to sit earlier at 11.30am (rather than 2.30pm) to consider the form divisions should take – now that the temporary Standing Orders on hybrid proceedings have lapsed.
- Procedure Committee Report: Procedure under coronavirus restrictions: the Government’s proposal to discontinue remote participation [HC 392 2019-21]
Virtual participation in proceedings for MPs who, for coronavirus-related reasons, are unable to travel to Westminster for as long as the pandemic continues; the strict principle of parity of treatment between physical and virtual participants should be dropped, to allow a far more flexible operating model to be developed to allow a from of virtual participation
Use of call lists and notice of proceedings:
In view of the limit on safe physical participation, I have decided that some elements of the systems devised for hybrid proceedings will need to continue.
- Return to physical proceedings: Motion on proceedings during the pandemic (No. 2) agreed to on division
Amendment to Motion negatived on division (Div No. 51)
Ayes: 185 / Noes: 242
Main Question agreed to on division (Div No. 52)
Ayes: 261 / Noes: 163
- Procedure Committee Report: Procedure under coronavirus restrictions: the Government’s proposal for proxy voting for shielding Members [HC 429 2019-21]
The Committee makes this Special Report to the House to inform its consideration of motions of which the Leader of the House intends to give notice later today, Wednesday 3 June, for consideration by the House tomorrow, Thursday 4 June.
- Prime Minster’s Question Time: PM responds to questions on new voting system and MPs unable to physically attend the Commons
I apologise to all those who have particular difficulties with it [returning to the Commons] because they are shielded or because they are elderly, and it is vital that, through the change we are making today, they should be able to vote by proxy.
A motion extending proxy voting arrangements to those Members who are shielding and those over the age of 70 will be tabled this afternoon for agreement tomorrow.
Commons agrees temporary orders to allow MPs restricted by Coronavirus to participate in proceedings on Questions, Urgent Questions and Statements virtually and to extend Proxy Voting to MPs unable to attend the Commons. Temporary orders to come in into effect from 8 June until 7 July.
- Speaker’s statement on virtual participation in questions, urgent questions and statements by certain Members and the reintrodution of call lists for questions
Following the orders passed on Thursday (4 June), virtual participation in questions, urgent questions and statements is allowed for certain Members. I have reintroduced a complete call list for questions, so Members should not rise to try to catch my eye; they should rise only when called. When a substantive question is asked by a Member participating virtually, I shall ask the Minister to answer the question and then call the Member to ask their supplementary question.
- Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards asks All-party Parliamentary Groups to avoid holding face to face meetings
- Speaker’s Statement on Select Committees (Participation and Reporting) (extension of Temporary Order)
On Tuesday 24 March, the House passed an order allowing for virtual participation in select committee meetings and giving Chairs associated powers to make reports. The order has effect until 13 June, but I was given a power under the order to extend it if necessary. Following representations from the Liaison Committee, I can notify the House today that I am extending the order until Thursday 17 September.
Hon. Members will know that preparations are under way for the new Division system of using pass readers in the Division Lobbies. Based on the tests so far and the best professional advice, I have concluded that we cannot use the new system today. I will make a further statement on Monday.
Motion to change the Fridays on which Private Members’ Bills are considered in 2019-21
We are attempting to devise a system of divisions that adheres to Public Health England advice on social distancing […] I am very grateful to House staff, who have yet again come up with another innovative option at speed: Pass-Reader Divisions. This involves having two pass-readers in each of the ‘Aye’ and the ‘No’ lobbies, enabling four people to vote at once in a socially distanced way.
I remind colleagues that the expanded proxy voting scheme applies to Members who are unable to attend Westminster for medical or public health reasons relating to the pandemic.
- PM’s statement on easing the lockdown in England
- End of daily coronavirus briefings, adhoc briefings to be arranged as necessary
Social distancing in the Chamber and across the House of Commons end of the building to remain at two metres until the summer recess.
It may be helpful to announce that, with effect from today, the length of time before the doors are locked in each Division will be reduced further. This will be 15 minutes for the first Division and, if possible, 12 minutes for subsequent successive Divisions.
Extension of the Orders of 2 June (Proceedings during the pandemic (No. 2) and of 4 June (Virtual Participation in Proceedings During the Pandemic (Temporary Orders) until 2 September 2020.
- Procedure Committee Report: Government Responses to the Committee’s First, Second and Third Reports [HC 565 2019-21]
- Opposition Leader of the House raises Point of Order on the recommencement of Westminster Hall sittings
- Chair of the Backbench Business Committee raises concerns with finding time for backbench debates in the Chamber
- Deputy Speaker hopes there will be progress towards resuming Westminster Hall sittings after the summer recess
Chair of the Procedure Committee:
This provides certainty to MPs who are new parents that they can continue to have their vote recorded when they are absent from the House, and also provides continuing certainty to those MPs who are prevented from coming to Westminster for reasons related to the pandemic.
Should the House approve the motion on Monday, the proxy voting pilot scheme will continue until 28 September. The Committee expects to provide its assessment of the pilot in early September: this report will inform the House’s consideration of any proposal to make the pilot scheme permanent.
Existing proxy votes continue till 28 September, unless cancelled. Applications for new proxy votes to come into effect on 1 September, can be made during the recess up to 4.30pm on 28 August. [Announcements: Future Business 22 Jul 2020]
- Speaker’s Statement on the extension of the order allowing for virtual participation in Select Committee meetings until 30 October
On Tuesday 24 March, the House passed an order allowing for virtual participation in select committee meetings, and giving Chairs associated powers to make reports. I was given a power under the order to extend it if necessary. On Monday 8 June, I announced an extension until Thursday 17 September. I can notify the House today that I am now further extending the order until Friday 30 October.
- House returns after summer recess
House agrees that Proceedings during the pandemic (No. 2) and of 4 June (Virtual participation in proceedings during the pandemic) shall have effect until 3 November 2020
In our view, the system of remote voting used in May was a more effective means of handling divisions in the House under conditions where the division lobbies could not be used in the traditional way and where a large number of Members were unable to attend for public health reasons. We recommend that the remote voting system be reinstated as a means of conducting divisions for as long as the division lobbies are unavailable for use in the traditional way.