Many Britons think parliaments should still work remotely after Covid, says poll

·3 min read

Just over half of all Britons want remote working arrangements at Parliament to continue, even when the coronavirus pandemic is over, a new poll has found.

A total of 51% of those questioned agreed that MPs should be able to take part in debates and vote on legislation remotely – compared to 35 who said that MPs should be required to be in Parliament to take part in debates and vote on new laws.

The research, carried out for the John Smith Centre at Glasgow University, found that almost two thirds (61%) believed remote working at Parliament would encourage more women and people with caring responsibilities to put themselves forward to be MPs.

In addition 64% of those polled said the change would allow MPs in rural areas or those who represent parts of the country a long way from Westminster to
get more done.

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However, the research, by Message House, also found that 35% believe that MPs would be less effective at holding the Government to account when working remotely, with the same number fearing that the quality of debates would get worse.

And while more than two fifths (43%) of the 2,099 people questioned believe that remote working would help MPs provide a better deal for the public, the same proportion were neutral on the issue, neither agreeing or disagreeing.

The John Smith Centre, named after the late Labour leader, was set up to make the positive case for politics and public service.

Director, Kezia Dugdale, said it should not be considered normal to demand that parliamentarians, including members of both the UK and Scottish parliaments, must travel hundreds of miles for every vote.

Both the House of Commons and Holyrood have used remote working arrangements during the coronavirus pandemic.

Kezia Dugdale, director of the John Smith Centre at Glasgow University (John Smith Centre/PA
Kezia Dugdale, director of the John Smith Centre at Glasgow University (John Smith Centre/PA

Ms Dugdale said: “As much as we all crave going back to normal, we should be asking ourselves and our leaders if that idea of normal was really good enough.

“Because it’s not really normal to line up in the aye and no lobbies of Westminster to cast a vote with your whole body. Hours wasted passing legislation packed together like sardines.

“Neither is it normal to demand MSPs travel from Stranraer and Stromness to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh to electronically cast a tight budget vote that we now know could be easily done from a distance.

“This new polling shows a desire to keep the new way of working that was brought in as a result of Covid restrictions, particularly if it aids rural representation and increases the chances of parliamentarians looking like the country they seek to represent.”

She added: “There’s much work to be done to enhance the effectiveness of parliament’s scrutiny functions, but after the year of innovation we’ve had, making the impossible possible, it’s surely within reach.”

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