MPs queuing to vote in Commons ‘appalling yet comical’

3 June 2020, 11:54

MPs voting in the Commons
Coronavirus – Tue Jun 2, 2020. Picture: PA

Pete Wishart, the SNP representative for Perth and North Perthshire, accused the UK Parliament of acting irresponsibly.

The UK Parliament is “not acting responsibly” by making parliamentarians line up around the Commons to vote in person, an SNP MP has said.

Pete Wishart criticised the UK Government for ending arrangements that allowed MPs to take part in business remotely.

He condemned the “appalling yet comical spectacle” of politicians joining lengthy queues around the Commons estate so they could vote in person in the Chamber.

MPs lining up to vote in the Commons (Jonathan Brady/PA)

With people in Scotland still being told to work from home if possible, Mr Wishart said the SNP has only had a “minimal” presence in London.

He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “This idea that there is a normal we should be returning to immediately is the false premise this is all based on.

“We’re not at a new normal, we’re still at the height of a pandemic and every institution has to act responsibly.

“Parliament yesterday was not acting responsibly.”

The SNP opted to have “only a skeleton amount of people” at Westminster for Monday’s proceedings, Mr Wishart said, with “eight brave souls that were prepared to go down”.

He added this was because “there is absolutely no way that we are leaving the House of Commons open to the Tory Government to do whatever they want with issues around Scotland”.

Mr Wishart, the MP for Perth and North Perthshire, has been chairing the Scottish Affairs Select Committee from his home.

He said this “has worked perfectly well”.

The SNP wants the hybrid arrangements, that allowed some MPs to take part from remote locations while others worked in the Commons, restored “so that everybody can ensure they can represent all the constituents across the UK”.

With the ending of those arrangements, he said Parliament is “disenfranchising millions of people across the UK whose MP cannot turn up to the House of Commons for health reasons, because they are looking after children, because they are shielding”.

He added: “That should be unacceptable to everybody.”

On Monday, MPs had to join a queue that stretched for several hundred metres, snaking through Westminster Hall and running to Portcullis House, the newer part of the parliamentary estate, to be able to vote.

Jamie Stone, the Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, was not there, saying his role as a carer for his disabled wife meant he was unable to attend.

He also urged the UK Government to “think again about shutting down virtual proceedings”.

Mr Wishart said: “The House of Commons just embarrassed itself in the eyes of the world yesterday.

“Imagine a democratic institution resorting to that type of spectacle and expecting to be taken seriously.

“I think the world was laughing yesterday at this exercise in so-called social distancing voting.”

He said he will “probably” have to go “very reluctantly” to Westminster next week – but added: “I don’t even know how I am going to get down there.

“I think there is one flight from Edinburgh Airport to London and I know there are trains available but I am not sure about timetables.

“Then I have got to think very carefully about the risks that I will be involved in about travelling to London and what I do when I get back.

“We shouldn’t be placed in situations like that.”

By Press Association

Happening Now