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House of Commons Commission

Volume 652: debated on Thursday 17 January 2019

The right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington, representing the House of Commons Commission, was asked—

House of Commons Chamber: Electronic Voting System

7. What recent discussions the Commission has had on the potential costs of installing an electronic voting system in the House of Commons Chamber. (908612)

The Commission has had no discussions on the costs of installing an electronic voting system in the Chamber. Its responsibility in this matter is limited to the financial or staffing implications of any change to the present system, were a change agreed by the House. If the House agreed to pursue electronic working, further work by the House service in conjunction with the digital service would be needed to accurately identify the investment, planning and development required to deliver electronic voting.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the answer. I accept that a change has to be a decision of the House, but the reality is that this is not just about democracy anymore; it is about health and safety. Six hundred Members trying to get through the Lobby the other night was an incredibly worrying situation: if Mr Speaker had called for the doors to be closed, it would not have been physically possible for the Doorkeepers to do so. There was claustrophobia, and we know the issues of Members with health challenges and Members who are pregnant. The House of Commons Commission needs to consider the issue from the perspective of safety in the workplace environment, with democratic considerations to one side.

I thank the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues for their questions—I think electronic voting will be my specialist subject on “Mastermind”. He has come up with a new angle, and I support the point he makes. Members in the packed Division Lobby when the Government were defeated very heavily will have noticed that the congestion was significant, and there were risks associated with that.

On the back of the hon. Gentleman’s question, I will ask the authorities to look at doing a health and safety risk assessment. As he will know, and as I have stated previously, if he wants to pursue the matter—I understand that he has perhaps not yet done so—he needs to ask the Procedure Committee to look at the whole subject of electronic voting.