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The govt has decided to shut down the online Parliament. In future, only those present in the Chamber will be allowed to take part. The Speaker's letter on this has three main takeaways, that should matter to anyone who cares about our democracy. [THREAD]…
1. The Speaker confirms that only 50 MPs will be allowed in the Chamber - the same as under the current hybrid model. So this is not about "MPs returning to work", as Rees-Mogg claimed. It simply shuts out those who could previously participate online.
2. Public Health England has advised "that the House cannot conduct divisions safely via the lobbies". Yet no alternative system of voting has been agreed. So a decision was taken to switch off the online system before any consideration of how Parliament would vote in person.
3.The Speaker writes that "it is for the Govt to decide what proposal for voting it wishes to put forward". That, in a nutshell, is the problem. The Executive has far too much power over the institution that is supposed to hold it to account - even on how it meets & how it votes.
4. This should matter to us all. At UK level, the House of Commons is the only democratically-elected institution we have. The only people we get to vote in or out of power are MPs. For as long as nearly 600 of them are shut out of Parliament, our democracy is partially suspended
5. The govt did not choose to have a pandemic that made it so hard for Parlt to function. But it can choose how to respond. The goal should be to expand participation, not shrink it; to use every possible tool to allow MPs to participate. Instead, it has barred the digital gates.
6. Ministers could do this, in the teeth of cross-party opposition, merely by refusing to table the necessary Standing Orders. If we are to maintain proper democratic scrutiny of govt, we *have* to loosen the grip of the Executive over the institution that holds it to account.END
A postscript: the hybrid model was not ideal either and also limited participation. But the goal should have been to build on that and expand it, not simply to switch it off and shrink the numbers. And crucially, the decision to do that should never have lain with the Executive.
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