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Laura Farris: Why I voted for the physical return of Parliament

Newbury's MP speaks on the challenges of lockdown

Charlie Masters

Charlie Masters


07964 444701

Laura Farris: Why I voted for the physical return of Parliament

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.

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Article comments

  • NewburyLad

    06/06/2020 - 18:37

    Why can I not go into pubs, why can I not use public transport to go and meet friends, why can I not get my hair cut, why can I not go into ordinary shops, why can I not go to the cinema, why can I not go for a weekend break away somewhere nice, all while the youth and blacks with a giant chip on their shoulder over something that happened in another country can march, congregate, protest and commit criminal acts all with impunity? You and your government needs to wake up and wake up fast. Also why am I paying taxes all my life but I can't get a hospital appointment long over due, yet thousands a week can turn up illegally in Britain and get instant healthcare, PPE, free stuff and accommodation, helped along by tax payer funded agencies in the English Channel? You need to stop worrying about Cummings and voting at work and actually start doing some good. Finally why am I forced to pay for Labour's propaganda via the BBC?


    • grumbert

      07/06/2020 - 20:17

      well nice of you to show your true colours.


      • NewburyLad

        08/06/2020 - 09:41

        What true colours, I've never hidden anything in my posts? But from your short post I take it you support the illegal mass gatherings, the destruction of property, the illegal immigration into Britain and a left-wing media broadcasting biased news whilst being funded by the taxpayer?


  • Newbn00b

    06/06/2020 - 13:37

    Surely if you can improve physical parliament, you can improve virtual parliament? I work at the Vodafone HQ and we get on fine with this - I'm sure we would be happy to share tips and showcase technology we use to accomplish virtual meetings and workshops.


  • Newbury boy

    06/06/2020 - 09:26

    Also given the news that another Tory MP broke lockdown to go to a BBQ I guess we have given up on the stay at home message


    • NewburyLad

      08/06/2020 - 09:41

      Did you forget about all those Labour MPs who broke the rules and well before Cummings didn't?


  • Newbury boy

    06/06/2020 - 09:19

    Its entirely about Johnson needing more support at PMQs when he blusters and lies and needs a braying mass behind him