Hybrid houses: could the UK parliament remain partly virtual?

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When the House of Lords began holding virtual proceedings during the first lockdown last spring, there was a spate of videos popular on social media showing peers struggling with mute buttons or interrupted by computerised voices. But, 10 months on, it could be the upper house that has the last laugh.

While the Commons and the Lords now hold so-called hybrid sittings, where members can participate in the chamber or by video link, it is the Lords – with an average age of 70 – that has seemingly embraced the modern era more thoroughly.

MPs – average age nearer 50 – have to attend Westminster to vote, or trust a whip or fellow MP with a proxy. But since last June peers have been able to vote electronically. The system, known as PeerHub, has worked with barely a hiccup, recording more than 46,000 votes to date.

Perhaps more significantly, while Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Commons, appears set on a near full return to business as usual once the coronavirus crisis abates, the upper house seems more likely to maintain some of the innovations brought about by the pandemic.

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