The right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington, representing the House of Commons Commission, was asked—
Electronic Voting Systems
The Commission has received various oral representations in previous Question Times. At its meeting on 14 May 2018, and in the absence of any House determination of a change in voting procedure, the Commission endorsed a plan for a House of Commons decant that envisages a Commons decant Chamber and two Division Lobbies, on the basis of a like-for-like layout, with adjustments to improve accessibility for Members and visitors to the Public Gallery. It will be a matter for the shadow sponsor board, once appointed, to consult on the requirements of the Palace. The procedures of the House remain the responsibility of the House itself.
Last week MPs were concerned that multiple votes interrupted their watching of the England match, but the more fundamental issue is that multiple votes eat into valuable debating time, as happened with the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. We were left only 15 minutes for a so-called debate on the UK Government’s power grab. Surely it is time to consider electronic voting, and the decant could be the first step in that process, instead of having a like-for-like, outdated set-up.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I remind the House that it is a matter for the Procedure Committee. Members who ask me this question should perhaps make a submission to the Procedure Committee so that it can consider their proposal.
Is the opportunity of Government Back Benchers to have a cosy chat in the Division Lobby with Ministers a good enough reason to maintain the antiquated voting system, which costs not only a huge amount of money but a great deal of valuable parliamentary time?
I suppose that matter would be entirely appropriate for him to include in the submission to the Procedure Committee as perhaps a reason why the House might want to change its procedures on this issue.
Palace of Westminster: Repair and Refurbishment
The Commission has made no such estimate. It will be for the sponsor board and delivery authority, which the two Houses agreed earlier this year to establish, to develop a proposed scope of works and budget for agreement by Parliament.
With the eye-watering bill estimated so far for here, the similarly-eye watering bill for Buckingham Palace, and the biggest bill of all, the bill we will pay for Brexit, is it any wonder that the public are losing confidence in politicians? Is there not still time to decide to move out of London to a purpose-built modern Parliament with sensible things such as electronic voting? If not, is there at least a team looking at how to cut the cost of this nonsense?
I am sure that the hon. Lady will be aware that the possibility of moving out of London has been considered. The joint Commission that was set up through both Houses looked at that matter and dismissed it as a proposal. The sponsor body and the delivery authority will have responsibility for making sure that the costs of the project are kept to a minimum while delivering a prestigious project on a world heritage building.
Is that not exactly the point? This is a world heritage building and if it was in the ownership of any individual, the state would require them to keep it up to a certain standard. That is exactly what we have to do as the owners of this building.
Of course we have to. I am sure that Members on both sides of the House will want to ensure that the sponsor body and the delivery authority between them deliver exactly the sort of project that the right hon. Gentleman set out.