‘Virtual’ Parliament

The UK Parliament is taking the first tentative steps to reconvening as a functioning legislature. This is important for a number of reasons, not least that the UK Government requires to be scrutinised and taken to task over their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

In the interest of public confidence and to give them room to operate in a fast moving environment, the criticism has been kept to a minimum. Any Government must be allowed to focus all their time and energy on addressing the life threatening crisis that is in front of us and that is what has happened up to now. That is not to say all Parliament work that would have been done on the estate has stopped. The existence of telecommunications software such as Skype, Zoom, Facebook has allowed parliamentarians to hold regular meetings to discuss pertinent issues. I, like many others, have taken part in conference calls for All Party Parliamentary Groups and select committees. It isn’t the same sitting in my living room cross examining witnesses and a great deal of influence will lie in the hands of the person that controls the mute function. It’s also much harder to pursue a line of questioning, the virtual world has much less spontaneity. But for better or worse this use of technology is now stepping up a gear to include chamber work. That will entail questions to department heads which would normally take place in the chamber at the start of the working day, now taking place in the virtual world. This will include Prime Minister’s Questions on a Wednesday. We shall have to wait to see how successfully such an interactive event can be recreated and if answers can be found for the shortcomings in the handing of the current crisis. 

After weeks of stage managed press conferences it is time to ask some difficult questions of the UK Government and it will be very interesting to hear if they have answers that satisfy the very real problems that people are facing daily.