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Committee receives Government response to key report on procedure after coronavirus restrictions

4 May 2021

The Procedure Committee publishes the Government’s response to its detailed report setting out a procedural roadmap for coming out of the current lockdown.

In the Committee’s report on procedure after coronavirus restrictions, it called on the Government to ensure that hybrid proceedings in the Commons continue until the beginning of stage 4 of the Government’s national roadmap [currently 21 June], after which the House should revert to all aspects of its pre-pandemic practice and procedure.

The report also asked the Government to ensure that MPs have the opportunity to properly debate and if necessary vote on ‘House business’, including substantive changes to the procedure and practice of the House.

The Government’s response to these reports notes the following points:

  • All procedural changes brought forward by the Government have required the approval of the House and on 25 March, the House agreed to a motion to extend the temporary orders until 21 June, in line with the Government’s roadmap
  • It remains the Government’s firm view that Parliament best serves the public when MPs are present in Westminster to the fullest extent possible
  • The changes made during the pandemic have been necessitated by the circumstances, but this should not be used as an opportunity to make long term changes to proceedings without consensus that any change would be beneficial to the operation of proceedings in Parliament
  • The Government agrees that it would be sensible to learn lessons from the past year and that a resilient fallback option for Parliament to sit remotely if necessary should be assessed carefully
  • The Government will keep the suspension of English Votes for English Laws under review and is following the Committee’s inquiry into the procedure of the House of Commons and the territorial constitution with interest

Chair's comment

Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP, Chair of the Procedure Committee, said:

“The Procedure Committee is grateful for the Government’s response to our report on procedure after coronavirus restrictions.

“The coronavirus pandemic has brought about some of the most significant changes to how the House works in more than 700 years. The Procedure Committee has always been clear that any permanent changes must be made carefully and consciously, and must be a matter for the House as a whole to consider.”

“I am glad that the Government has commended the innovation, resilience and adaptability of the House over the last 12 months. Though it is right that these measures were agreed on the basis that they are temporary, the Committee agrees that the quality of scrutiny and debate during the pandemic has been sub-optimal.

“The Committee will continue its work on reviewing the procedures of the House during the pandemic as we progress through the Government’s and House Service’s roadmaps.”

Further information

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