Poulter expects MPs will force government to change rules on voting

All MPs taking part in the vote on Tuesday had to wait in a long queue - including opposition leader

All MPs taking part in the vote on Tuesday had to wait in a long queue - including opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer: Aaron Chown/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Suffolk MP Dr Dan Poulter believes his colleagues will force the government to rethink its opposition to scrapping online voting after the long queues built up for two parliamentary votes.

The Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP rebelled and voted against the government in two votes that resulted in MPs ending the “virtual sessions” that have been held since Easter with members taking part in debates online.

Dr Poulter was furious by what he saw as the government putting MPs at risk of catching Covid-19 – and contrasted the attitude of ministers who had decided to ban remote working with that of his colleagues at a London hospital, who were working hard to avoid exposing anyone to the virus.

There were two votes on Tuesday – and Dr Poulter voted against the government in both. “I voted for the amendment, which was defeated, and then against the main motion, which was passed,” he said. “But I think my colleagues are already regretting what happened.

“The queues were very long and slow – the two divisions took about two hours to deal with and sometimes we can have many more than that. That will make parliamentary business impossible.

“And while it was okay queuing outside to vote on Tuesday, how will people feel when it’s tipping down with rain? I can’t see MPs standing for this – and I even heard cabinet ministers complaining about this. I think there will have to be a change very soon.”

About a quarter of MPs – and their constituents – have effectively been disenfranchised because they are shielding and are unable to leave their homes to travel to Westminster. Others have had to leave home and are not able to return because of the distance to the their constituencies or other shielding issues.

During an exchange with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris Johnson defended the move - saying: “I do not think it unreasonable to ask parliamentarians to come back and do their job.”

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But he apologised to his colleagues for the inconvenience and said that MPs who were shielding or were older than 70 would be allowed to vote by proxy. However many have rejected that proposal, saying it would effectively make them “second-class MPs.”

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