FDA National Officer Jawad Raza has said as full return to the hybrid parliament “is simply the common sense thing to do” given the current situation in London, which has now entered into Tier 4 due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the area.
His comments come after Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, wrote to the Chair of the Procedure Committee, Karen Bradly, to outline the government’s intention “to bring forward a motion to extend remote participation to substantive proceedings when the House next sits”.
The FDA has been calling for a return to hybrid Parliament for months as COVID-19 cases in the capital remained worryingly high.
“It’s baffling why this decision wasn’t made sooner,” Raza said. “As it’s been clear for months that reducing the number of people physically attending the Parliamentary estate was the best way to protect the health and safety of all staff. Virtual participation has already been proven to work and the government’s reluctance to make this decision has put all staff at unnecessary risk.”
The announcement from Rees-Mogg that the House would extend remote participation followed a joint letter from the FDA and its fellow unions Prospect and PCS. The letter argued that the move to Tier 4 in London should prompt a more thorough reassessment of the government’s insistence on allowing large numbers of MPs to attend parliament in person.
The letter made two key demands:
- That the Government reintroduce the hybrid parliament arrangements agreed in April from the date the House returns after the Christmas recess until the tier 4 restrictions in London and the south-east have been lifted.
- That the Commission as a matter of urgency explore the means by which all parliamentary proceedings can be carried out remotely.
While the new plans have been welcomed by the FDA, Raza has also called on the Leader of the House to “make a commitment that any decision to review remote participation will only happen when there is evidence that it is safe to do so”.
He’s also challenged Rees-Mogg’s comments that the new measures will be “time limited”, arguing that “there is no reason why increased remote working should not be looked at as a long-term option”.
“The world of work is changing,” Raza explained. “And a progressive approach to flexible working has the potential to increase participation in Parliamentary business, reduce unnecessary travel and improve the work/life balance of everyone working across the estate in the years to come.”