Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has spoken out against the government’s imposition of an end to the virtual Parliament system created for the coronavirus pandemic. In recent weeks MPs have been able to participate remotely in parliamentary proceedings, allowing those in vulnerable categories and those who would need to travel long distances to work from home in line with public health advice. An amendment aimed at restoring remote voting for those shielding was rejected by 37 votes.
Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:
“In order for me to get here today, it required a journey of 18 hours. I cannot and will not do that every week. Apart from anything else, the return journey will be 26 hours long and would require me then to go into self-isolation for 14 days—the only responsible way to live in a community such as mine. Having come here I cannot go back until it is safe to my family and my community for me to do so.
“I think it is important that this House should be a Parliament for the whole of the United Kingdom. What the Leader of the House brings to us today is a recipe for us being a Parliament essentially of people who live within driving distance of London, and that is simply as unacceptable as it is dangerous.
“We know that it is only a matter of time before somebody who ought to be shielding and should not be here will find that there is some big incident in their constituency, and they will want to be here articulating the case of their constituents, because that is what we do. Inevitably, they will end up coming here when they should not, putting themselves, their family and their community at risk.”
Speaking after the government rejected amendments that would have continued remote participation, Mr Carmichael said:
“By putting party interests ahead of everything else the government has made the “mother of parliaments” a joke. They have shredded parliamentary values in the name of protecting parliamentary tradition.
“There was something deeply distasteful about government ministers marching through Parliament to say that they want to bar their colleagues who are shielding from voting remotely. I suspect that history will not look kindly on their behaviour.”