MPs in need of new voting system after Speaker rules division lobbies are unsafe during coronavirus pandemic

Harry Yorke
Sir Lindsay Hoyle

MPs will not be allowed to resume the centuries-old tradition of voting through the Parliamentary division lobbies when they return to work on Tuesday after the Speaker ruled it risked breaching social distancing rules. 

Ministers have ordered remote proceedings in the House of Commons to end after the Whitsun half-term break as part of the drive to get the country back to work. 

However, signalling his frustration with the plans on Thursday, Sir Lindsay Hoyle wrote to MPs to warn that they “simply cannot” vote in the usual way “safely”, meaning the Government will now be forced to come up with an alternative. 

While it had initially been expected that MPs would be required to queue for prolonged periods before entering the ‘Aye’ and ‘No’ lobbies, Sir Lindsay said that “pinch points” meant that their safety could not be guaranteed.

In his letter, the Speaker added: “As safety is my paramount consideration for MPs and staff - alongside the need for constituents to be properly represented through voting - we need to consider practical alternative arrangements.

“Now that I have agreed to a recall on Tuesday, it is for the Government to decide what proposal for voting it wishes to put forward."

The Daily Telegraph had been told that the Government will now adopt plans drawn up in consultation with Sir Lindsay, which will see MPs queue two metres apart outside the Commons before filing into the chamber to vote. 

On entering the Commons, MPs will be required to file left past the dispatch box if voting in favour and right if against, giving their name to the clerks in the same way as they normally would. 

Parliamentary officials believe that the new arrangements will mean that each vote will take 30 minutes to complete, roughly double the normal time required. 

However, ministers are also looking at proposals to introduce a hybrid voting system in the near future, with some MPs voting electronically, after Sir Lindsay privately expressed frustration that elderly members forced to shield at home risked being disenfranchised