Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland, Alistair Carmichael, has called for Parliament to urgently adopt new remote working procedures to ensure that all constituencies are represented effectively during the coronavirus crisis.
The intervention comes as MPs from across the House of Commons have raised concerns about their ability to commute to London to undertake essential work. Offering himself as an example, Mr Carmichael confirmed travel restrictions means he is today taking a train, a hire car and ferry in order to get back to his constituency in Orkney.
The Liberal Democrat Chief Whip is therefore proposing the House of Commons implement an expanded Liaison Committee on the New Zealand model, including all parties and chaired by a senior opposition MP. He is urging all parties to come together support the proposal.
Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael said:
“Forms of remote working will always have limitations, but if the choice is between that and risking democratic representation for constituencies outside of London, there is no choice at all. It is time for everyone to drop their resistance to electronic methods of working.
“If we are going to tell everyone else in the country to work from home in the name of public health then we should be leading by example. The question is not whether we can be exactly as effective as we would be under normal circumstances. The question is whether we can ensure the essential requirements of our democracy – that the Government be held to account – while acting responsibly to protect public health.
“The Prime Minister himself held a Cabinet meeting this week by video conference. If it is good enough for the PM then it is good enough for the rest of us, as a temporary measure. The New Zealand example shows us that a special committee is an effective way to bring all parties together and ensure accountability despite the crisis.”