MPs vote to scrap hybrid voting and continue with 'absurd' queues outside Parliament

MPs have voted to scrap digital voting, restricting them only to vote in person in the House of Commons.

Parliament had allowed MPs to vote online during the coronavirus outbreak, but MPs voted in favour of the Government’s motion to only allow them to vote in person, passing by 261 votes to 163, a majority of 98.

MPs also defeated an amendment to the motion, which would have restored remote voting in the House of Commons during the Covid-19 pandemic. The motion was defeated by 185 votes to 242, majority 57.

This now means MPs will have to queue to vote in the House of Commons, with hundreds of parliamentirains formed a long, winding queue from the grass outside Westminster Hall to the despatch box in the Commons as they tried to adhere to social distancing measures.

Upon arrival MPs - many looking confused - had to pause to state their name and voting intention.

MPs formed a queue from outside the Chamber to pass a motion to resume voting in person in the House of Commons. Credit: PA

Some MPs have been highly critical of the new change, saying the return to the traditional way of voting puts MPs at risk.

Labour’s Viendra Sharma tweeted that he had been “disenfranchised” by the new parliamentary voting system as the medical advise was for him to remain at home.

He said: “It’s fundamentally discrimination against older MPs, the disabled and those who live with the vulnerable. This government risked lives starting lockdown late, against the advice of the first countries hit by Corona, and now they are hell bent on reopening Parliament and schools.”

MPs form a queue outside Parliament to vote in the House of Commons. Credit: PA

The hybrid system had allowed up to 50 MPs to attend the Chamber in person and 120 others can contribute to proceedings from afar via Zoom.

The system not only allows for social distancing to be observed, but it means MPs who are 'shielding' - people considered clinically vulnerable to Covid-19 - can participate in proceedings without causing risk to their health.

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg had insisted the hybrid system should be scrapped because he claimed it diminished the ability for MPs to "scrutinise" legislations.

The new system was widely criticised by MPs from across the house, with Labour MP Charlotte Nichols saying it was going "spectacularly badly".

Others, including Liberal Democrat Layla Moran and Labour's Luke Pollard said the system was "ridiculous".

Dozens of MPs posted pictures to Twitter, showing the "absurd" system.

Tory MP Michael Fabricant remarked "anyone watching the voting live" on television would see what an "embarrassing shambles it is".

Rees-Mogg's plans for a return to physical-only proceedings were met with an outpouring of anger from MPs across the House, who claimed it favours those in good health.

The regular system of voting - division lobbies - was ruled out due to how close MPs must be to one another, meaning a bizarre system had to be employed.

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said the queuing system for votes would continue if MPs supported the motion as it is the “only method that is compatible” with Government-set requirements and those from Public Health England.

Labour MP Margaret Hodge, 75, described the move as "damaging" and said it will "limit accountability and create a toothless Parliament".

She added: "As somebody in the ‘vulnerable’ category, I am unable to join them. I am furious that for the first time in my 25 years as an MP I am being denied the right to vote!

"The Government wants 650 MPs to stand in a giant queue to vote on how the Commons makes decisions from now on," she wrote on Twitter.

Former shadow leader of the House Chris Bryant said the queues “would be like Alton Towers”.

During the vote Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle encouraged MPs to “keep up” to try to decrease the length of the queue snaking out of the Commons chamber across the parliamentary estate.

He could be heard telling MPs in the Commons chamber: “Why are we not keeping up? There are other members waiting.”

Several MPs, including Liberal Democrat Wera Hobhouse (Bath) and Labour’s Zarah Sultana (Coventry South) wore face coverings as they made their votes.