Majority think remote Parliament working should continue beyond Covid pandemic, poll suggests

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 per cent of those questioned agreed MPs should be able to take part in debates and vote on legislation remotely – compared to 35 who said 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 almost two thirds (61 per cent) believed remote working at Parliament would encourage more women and people with caring responsibilities to put themselves forward to be MPs.

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Holyrood's new Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone is set to oversee remote working arrangements as the country recovers from the Covid pandemic. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

In addition 64 per cent 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.

However, the research, by Message House, also found 35 per cent believe 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 per cent) 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.

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."

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