Sat, 06 Jun 2020
This crisis has seen a number of historic interventions and innovations in our political system.
At the peak of lockdown, like many of you, MPs were sent to work from home and a new 'virtual Parliament' was established to ensure that the cornerstones of our democracy, representation and scrutiny, continued in the Houses of Commons and Lords.
But, as many sectors of the economy (including our primary schools) return to more conventional arrangements, a vote on Tuesday confirmed we are returning to our tried-and-tested methods of representation.
The virtual Parliament had advantages.
MPs from across the country were able to question the Government and speak in debates through Zoom and vote on legislation from their phones.
It was an efficient and safe way of working.
However, there were inherent limitations that were never really resolved, which is why I supported a physical return.
The timings of debates were reduced, question sessions with ministers cut to 30 minutes from the usual hour and on every occasion whether or not an MP was listed to speak depended on the result of a random online ballot.
At the start, my name came up a lot.
But in the final fortnight of the virtual Parliament I applied 13 times to speak in debates and statements and was listed for none.
This was frustrating and meant that critical issues that were being raised in West Berkshire could not be put directly to the minister.
I was at the mercy of the new online ballot system (where there was stiff competition for every debate) and unable to make representations organically, by 'bobbing' for the Speaker's attention.
In the 24 hours since we physically returned, I have spoken in a debate in the chamber and had questions listed yesterday to ask the Prime Minister and the aviation minister.
Already I can make your voice better heard.
However, I am of course mindful of the needs of 'shielding' colleagues and objected to the idea that they would be shut out of the process.
The Government has decided that they can still participate virtually in debates and questions and vote via a nominated proxy.
Some of you may have seen the kilometre-long queue of MPs waiting to vote yesterday.
I have to say I do think there is considerable room for improving this elaborate exercise.
I have already suggested ways in which I think it could be achieved whilst maintaining public safety.
But overall I am glad we are returning to robust and fair representation for all constituencies.