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Chairs call for COVID-secure and hybrid Westminster Hall debates

11 February 2021

The Chairs of three parliamentary Select Committees have written to the Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, calling on the Government to restart Westminster Hall debates in a COVID-secure hybrid format as soon as possible.

The letter was sent jointly by Karen Bradley MP, Catherine McKinnell MP and Ian Mearns MP, who respectively chair the Procedure Committee, Petitions Committee and Backbench Business Committee.

The correspondence also noted that House authorities should be given sufficient time to test the necessary arrangements for hybrid Westminster Hall debates and to allow Members to apply for debates.

Chair of the Petitions Committee, Catherine McKinnell MP said:

“The Government needs to bring forward hybrid proceedings for Westminster Hall debates as soon as possible, so we can ensure that the concerns of the millions of people waiting to have their petitions debated in Parliament are heard.

“Hybrid debates, with Members able to take part virtually, would ensure that the fewest number of people need to be in Westminster, while enabling more MPs to be able to take part.

“Restarting Westminster Hall debates is vital to enable all Members to scrutinise the Government and represent their constituents, ensuring the voices of petitioners can be heard in Parliament, but this must be done in the safest way possible, and therefore in a hybrid format.”

Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, Ian Mearns MP said:

“The suspension of Westminster Hall sittings has created yet another backlog of Backbench Business debates on a range of vital topics.

“These are ready to be scheduled by the Committee, but we urgently need the Government to table a motion allowing us to use Westminster Hall so we can use the time granted to us in Standing Orders. It is imperative that backbench voices can scrutinise the Government and continue to be heard while maintaining the safety of all MPs and staff.

“I am incredibly grateful for the attempts that the House Service has made in order to make arrangements for hybrid sittings possible in the second Chamber, but I must strongly urge the Leader of the House to allow these sittings to take place in Westminster Hall as soon as possible”

Further information

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