Wefan Gymraeg

Westminster needs to follow example of virtual Senedd

The UK Parliament needs to adapt in response to COVID-19 and ensure MPs can still hold the Government to account.

By Callum James Littlemore, Apr 08, 2020 9:04

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have supported calls for an urgent all-party meeting to discuss remote working for Westminster, urging MPs to follow the actions taken to allow the Senedd to function virtually.

In a letter to the Chief Whips of all parties in the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael MP warned the necessary constraints caused by the spread of coronavirus mean “we must consider alternative arrangements.”

The letter follows confirmation that the Speaker of the House of Commons has backed calls for a "virtual" Parliament to allow MPs to keep on scrutinising the Government during the coronavirus outbreak.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, the Senedd has led the way in ensuring it can continue to meet, discuss and scrutinise the actions of the Welsh Government. The first digital session of the Senedd was held on 1st April, with a second session planned in the coming days.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds said:

"It's clear that everyone needs to adjust how we work in response to Covid-19. We've already seen millions of people across the UK shift to working from home and working practices are changing as a result. This principle needs to now also apply to our politicians and Parliaments.

"People deserve reassurance that their representatives can fulfil their duties wherever they are in the country, even in these exceptional circumstances. MPs have to agree a plan that is fit for purpose for Parliament to return from recess on 21 April.

"I urge the UK Parliament to take inspiration from the amazing work being done by the Senedd and Senedd staff to ensure we maintain Parliamentary scrutiny during these testing times."

Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael said:

“The Speaker of the House announced important steps towards remote working for Parliament this week. Leaders from all parties must now meet to urgently discuss these and other measures, in a spirit of cooperation in the national interest.

“The proposals for a special committee to evaluate the Government response are just as important. In uncertain times and with sweeping powers enacted, democratic accountability demands that the parties outside of government are at the heart of the discussion. I believe that it is right and proper that the Leader of the Opposition chair this committee.”

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