Boris Johnson told to hold virtual PMQs so MPs can scrutinise his coronavirus response
PUBLISHED: 11:27 01 April 2020 | UPDATED: 17:32 01 April 2020
MPs want Boris Johnson to hold a virtual Prime Minister’s Questions session to ensure he does not avoid scrutiny.
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Parliament is now shut for at least four weeks, and there are doubts whether it will re-open on 21st April as planned.
The Commons authorities are reportedly planning a two-day week system to limit the numbers of politicians in the chamber.
Now 200 opposition MPs have written to the Commons clerk urging for action to ensure they can continue to scrutinise the prime minister over the coronavirus response.
Shadow business minister Chi Onwurah co-ordinated the letter, which reads: “In these exceptional circumstances parliament must work exceptionally.
“In normal times there is real value in members physically coming together, but in a national crisis when 30 million households are being instructed to stay at home and save lives we must show that we too have ‘got the message’.”
The MPs said Westminster is “not a safe working environment” because of the spread of Covid-19 and that parliamentarians should “lead by example”.
“Though change comes slowly to parliament, in this time of crisis we urge you to work with Parliamentary Digital Services and our excellent tech sector to design in the next few weeks a digital parliament in which all members can participate,” they wrote.
“Given the urgency of the task we recognise that will require using off the shelf solutions and may initially be ‘rough and ready’ but people up and down the country have made huge behavioural changes in a matter of days and we must show that we are capable of it too.
“With the help of our many innovative and ethical tech sector organisations we can deliver a digital Parliament which, through secure video conferencing, can maintain our democratic traditions in accordance with social distancing.”
Ed Davey, acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “If it wasn’t a dangerous infectious virus, but a major emergency, parliament would have been recalled. We wouldn’t have gone on recess.
“We’ve shown opposition parties are prepared to behave responsibly. I think we can find a way to get things cracking and get an online virtual parliament to serve the nation.”
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