Virtual proceedings are the only way to stop an England-only parliament – we can’t afford to dismiss them

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Thursday 14 May 2020 17:46 BST
How will a virtual Parliament work?

Just as the virtual Commons finds its feet, the government seems to be kicking it down.

Virtual proceedings must be allowed to continue if advice to “stay at home” remains in place in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Otherwise, this risks becoming an England-only parliament, with other nations locked out. This is a grave threat to political equality and the principles of parliamentary democracy.

MPs have shown they are able to work well from home. There should be no rush to scupper the successful innovations we’ve seen – from video-link contributions to remote voting.

Figures from across the nations have expressed support for maintaining the “hybrid” proceedings until the pandemic is over. Closing that off unnecessarily will weaken parliamentary scrutiny, not strengthen it.

Mr Rees-Mogg says parliament should “set an example” by returning – but parliament has already set an excellent example to businesses and institutions across the world: showing how much is possible with flexible working.

The Commons leader makes a passionate case for the role of parliament in normal times. But as the government has gone to some pains to tell us, these are not normal times.

Speaker Lindsay Hoyle has made it clear MPs and staff should not be forced to return until it’s properly safe and right to do so. The government must not ride roughshod over these concerns.

Darren Hughes
Chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society

So, Jacob Rees-Mogg wants parliament to set an example by returning to normal. But how would you space out the MPs? Perhaps by following Rees-Mogg’s other example – laying them end to end.

David Watson

Public sector pay freeze?

What an insult it would be to our NHS workers if they were to suffer the suggested pay freeze that was leaked this week in a Treasury document detailing options of repaying the debt created by the pandemic.

If it is put into place, this freeze would also be applied to civil servants and local government workers who have raised their game to meet the logistical and organisational challenges to keep us all safe from coronavirus.

The debt should instead be repaid by those who will still have an income while the economy rebuilds. A separate income tax element, clearly defined and possibly starting at a level above the current personal allowance, could be a solution.

It could provide transparency on the rate at which the “Covid-19” debt is being paid off and when it is that we could stop paying it.

I, for one, would be happy to do this.

Anna Taylor

We need clear PPE guidance

If we are to receive instructions about wearing masks, one would hope that the process starts with a clear definition of the objective. If it is to prevent carriers spreading the virus, the DIY store masks incorporating a valve will be ineffective as they are designed to filter inhaled air and vent exhaled air freely through the valve.

Given the inability to issue clear instructions shown by our leaders recently, I am not optimistic!

Niall Horn

Airport coronavirus security

Referring to Megan Potterton’s article (I flew into Heathrow and nobody asked me why I was travelling or where I had come from”) about current shortcomings at Heathrow, I would point out that our most egregious security error was the failure at Heathrow to even check temperatures of incoming passengers from Milan, at the height of the widespread carnage in Lombardy. Perhaps officials didn’t know that Milan was in Lombardy.

Cole Davis

It’s not always a matter of common sense

The last three letters in Tuesday’s edition all had the common theme of citing “common sense”. In doing so, you did a great service to those (like me) who think common sense to be common nonsense.

The first two letters (Common sense out the window and Don’t leave it up to us) both made a perfectly valid point that one should probably not follow the advice of a proven buffoon, but not that the lack of common sense was the problem.

The third letter (Leave it up to us) perfectly makes the point of just how subjective “common sense” is, since the writer takes a contrary view to the previous letter, while still insisting common sense dictates his line of thinking.

Can I please suggest to all your readers that there is very little evidence to support the concept of common sense, since all our judgements and opinions are formed by our individual experiences, not to mention the differences in the ways in which the human mind works.

My brain patterns are as unique to me as are yours to you, in much the same way as we all have unique fingerprints, and unique DNA.

If you want to make an argument for or against an issue, please provide your rounded reasons – don’t just put it all down to “common sense”. To do so weakens your argument substantially for all those who are guided by a contrary “common sense”.

David Curran

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