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Politics / Parliament to become ‘physical’ again after opposition loses challenge

Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael while working from home.

ISLES MP Alistair Carmichael has accused the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Moog of putting the safety of parliamentarians and their families at risk after the government won a vote that will see the return to a ‘physical’ House of Commons in early June.

As part of a failed attempt by opposition parties to overturn the government proposal to end the virtual parliament, Carmichael said that “everyone deserves equal representation, including those who are shielding and those with family responsibilities.”

Rees-Mogg had argued that if schools return on 1 June then parliament should do so likewise. The government comfortably won the vote on the timetable by 350 to 258 votes.

Speaking in parliament via Zoom from Orkney, the Lib Dem MP said he accepted that “none of us are blind to the inadequacies of online scrutiny,” but added “if it is a choice between that and putting the safety of members, their families and the staff of this House at risk then that is no choice at all.”

He later said the pandemic was far from over and politicians should lead by example and that included working from home when possible.

“It is an insult to those who have suffered and died for Jacob Rees-Mogg to suggest that MPs should put their communities at risk by traveling hundreds of miles to London each week for the whims of the government,” he said.

“Parliament has demonstrated in recent weeks that we can scrutinise the Government while working from home and ensure communities across the United Kingdom have their voices heard.

“We should instead be looking at how we can retain the best features of the virtual system to ensure safe and equal representation for every part of the UK. The Government must think again.”

Our story from earlier today, published at 11.39:

NORTHERN Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has called on the Scottish Secretary to support the continuation of remote working for members of parliament during the coronavirus pandemic.

It comes after leader of the house Jacob Rees-Mogg said parliament should return to physical proceedings at the start of June.

Carmichael has been working from home in Orkney in recent weeks, video calling into debates.

He called on secretary of state for Scotland Alister Jack to be a “voice for equal representation in government” and support remote working for MPs.

Carmichael said: “It is a simple fact that during this crisis we should work from home where possible to reduce the spread of coronavirus and keep people safe.

“Forcing MPs to choose between the safety of our communities and equal representation is unacceptable.

“Parliament must be a forum where every part of the United Kingdom can participate equally.

“The Secretary of State knows this better than most and the challenges posed to communities that are more distant from Parliament. We are calling on him to be a voice for equal representation in Government.”

Writing to Jack alongside member of the Scottish affairs committee Wendy Chamberlain MP, Carmichael said “there are clear risks in travelling long distances by public transport to and from London every week”.

The issue is due to be raised in the House of Commons today (Wednesday) at 12.30pm in an urgent question to Rees-Mogg.