U.K. Lawmaker With Cancer Excluded From Debate on Cancer
(Bloomberg) -- A U.K. lawmaker who is being treated for breast cancer called on the government to reinstate a fully virtual Parliament, so she and others who need to be at home during the pandemic can take part in key debates.
Tracey Crouch, a former Conservative Party minister, said under Parliament’s current rules she couldn’t speak in a debate on breast cancer on Thursday afternoon, and urged House of Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg to “urgently reconsider virtual participation.”
Rees-Mogg must “stop thinking those of us at home are shirking our duties,” she told the House of Commons by video link. “Because of his ruling, some of us with real and current life experience of the disease are disappointingly unable to participate” in the debate, she said.
More than 150 members of Parliament, almost a quarter of the total, had registered for a proxy vote as of October because they cannot attend sittings in Westminster for medical or public health reasons.
Although another MP can cast a vote on their behalf, MPs at home are not allowed to take part in any substantial debates on legislation or in any general debates in the Commons chamber or Westminster Hall. They’re only allowed to appear via video link during ministerial question time and statements.
Rees-Mogg has repeatedly rejected calls to allow a change in the rules, saying last month lawmakers have a “duty to be here doing our business.”
He declined again on Thursday. “It is a question of striking a careful balance in these difficult times between ensuring Parliament can serve its constituents in full and making sure that members can complete their duties as safely and as effectively as possible,” he told Crouch.
In April and May, MPs were allowed to vote remotely and take part in all debates from home. But the rules were changed in June, when the House of Commons approved a government motion tabled to restrict virtual proceedings to question times and statements.
Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle has said the power rests with the government, and not him, to grant MPs a vote on allowing the return of full virtual participation in Parliament.
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