Parliament’s pandemic rules become an issue in Britain.
LONDON — A British lawmaker who is being treated for breast cancer was unable to attend a government debate on the illness on Thursday, and called on the government to “urgently reconsider” limitations on remote participation for members of Parliament.
The lawmaker, Tracey Crouch, a member of the governing Conservative Party who received a cancer diagnosis in June, took the issue to the floor of Parliament on Thursday, highlighting a concern that has been debated for months amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Members of Parliament who are not physically present in the parliamentary chamber are not allowed to take part in general debates or ones on legislation, but they are allowed to appear by video link during question sessions with government ministers and when statements are being given.
Appearing by video during one of the instances where virtual participation was allowed, Ms. Crouch, who has been an outspoken advocate for advancing cancer research, upbraided the government minister responsible for the rules, Jacob Rees-Mogg, for his decision to limit virtual participation during the coronavirus pandemic. Ms. Crouch has not been attending Parliament in person as it is considered risky for her given her condition.
Mr. Rees-Mogg, she added, should “stop thinking those of us at home are shirking our duties — in fact, quite the opposite — and urgently reconsider virtual participation.”
The government proceedings that take place in the normally packed House of Commons have proved tricky for lawmakers to navigate since the coronavirus outbreak began. But much of the process was moved to the virtual space during the country’s first lockdown earlier this year, as many lawmakers remained at home.
Members of Parliament could participate by video link and vote remotely in the spring, but in June, the government wanted lawmakers to return to Westminster. Mr. Rees-Mogg argued that the “hybrid model,” with some lawmakers physically present and others on video link, did not allow Parliament to properly do its duty.
And so Thursday’s debate, on the effect of the pandemic on breast cancer diagnosis and the future of breast cancer services in the country, required in-person participation.
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