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Electronic Voting: House of Commons

Volume 617: debated on Thursday 24 November 2016

7. When the Commission last made an estimate of the cost of introducing electronic voting to the House; and what that estimate was. (907451)

The Commission has given no formal consideration to a move to electronic voting in the House. Its responsibility in this matter is limited to any financial or staffing implications of any change to the current system, were a change to be agreed by the House. The Procedure Committee, of which the hon. Gentleman has been a member since 2015, will be well placed to inquire into the matter and come up with proposals.

It is a pleasure to ask a question of a spokesman on the same side of the House. During the Report stage of the Higher Education and Research Bill on Monday we spent nearly an hour trooping through the Division Lobbies. Has the Commission ever made a calculation of the cost to the taxpayer of that dead time in terms of staff, security and utilities? If we are to be decanted as part of a restoration process, surely that presents an opportunity to devise a pilot for electronic voting if we are not going to replicate every last detail of where we are now.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for those two questions. On the time it takes Members to vote, he may not be aware that back in 1997 this House did consider substantial changes to the way in which we voted, and I am afraid it voted to keep things exactly as they were. I hope that by, perhaps, early next year we will have a substantive debate in this place on the restoration and renewal issue, and that would be the appropriate opportunity for him to raise his point.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the current system affords Members an opportunity to nobble Ministers when they are bereft of their heavies and spin doctors?

It is indeed true that when trooping through the Division Lobbies there are opportunities to lobby Ministers, but clearly those opportunities are more frequent for Government Members than for Opposition Members.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it gives Opposition Members an opportunity for team building, which is extremely important? Will he do everything he can to keep the issue at the bottom of his in-tray?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question, which gives me the opportunity to underline the importance of team-building opportunities in the Lobby, particularly for her party.