It’s vital that the Government continues to be held to account during the current crisis, which is why I backed Keir Starmer’s call for the recall of a ‘virtual parliament’. Our priority must be working across political boundaries to tackle the coronavirus, but the Government’s decisions need to be open to questioning and subject to scrutiny.
Through active engagement with MPs, constituents’ concerns can be heard, problems can be resolved, mistakes rectified, and issues addressed so that more lives can be saved. I’ve been writing directly to Ministers on many issues that have been raised with me – including on unclear guidance for workers and on the lack of support for students – but if parliament isn’t meeting, scrutiny isn’t as effective.
Parliament’s currently in recess for Easter, but we are returning next Tuesday and obviously can’t meet in the normal way. But the technology I’ve been using over the last can be adapted to enable Parliamentarians to hold Government Ministers to account remotely. That’s why I joined with my colleague Chi Onwurah in writing to the Clerk of the House of Commons asking for a virtual Parliament.
I’m pleased that the Commons Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, has worked hard with Parliament’s staff to enable us to operate remotely from next week and we should be operating a hybrid system – with a handful of MPs in the Chamber and many more linked in from homes. As he commented, “by working virtually, this is our contribution to the guidance of stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.”