Millions of people could be disenfranchised unless Parliament urgently adopts a home working strategy for MPs, it has been warned.
As Parliament rose for an extended recess last night, MPs raised concerns about the practicality and safety of returning to work during the coronavirus crisis.
Orkney and Shetland Alistair Carmichael, offering himself as an example, revealed that travel restrictions would require him to take a train, a hire car and a ferry over a two day period in order to get back to his constituency.
The Liberal Democrat chief whip is proposing the House of Commons follow the New Zealand model, where a special select committee has been set up to act as a sort of proxy for Parliament.
The committee would have representation from all parties and would be chaired by a senior opposition MP.
Mr Carmichael said: “Forms of remote working will always have limitations, but if the choice is between that and risking democratic representation for constituencies outside of London, there is no choice at all. It is time for everyone to drop their resistance to electronic methods of working.
“If we are going to tell everyone else in the country to work from home in the name of public health then we should be leading by example.
“The question is not whether we can be exactly as effective as we would be under normal circumstances. The question is whether we can ensure the essential requirements of our democracy – that the Government be held to account – while acting responsibly to protect public health.”
He added: “The prime minister himself held a Cabinet meeting this week by video conference.
“If it is good enough for the PM then it is good enough for the rest of us, as a temporary measure.
“The New Zealand example shows us that a special committee is an effective way to bring all parties together and ensure accountability despite the crisis.”