The significance of hybrid proceedings

The House of Lords, like other legislative chambers, has had to adapt quickly to the coronavirus crisis.  Fortunately, there is the technology available now for legislatures to meet virtually.  The House initially met for some proceedings in the chamber and others virtually.  Chamber proceedings were limited to a few members being present.  With 2m social distancing, the chamber (much smaller than that of the Commons) can only accommodate 30 members.

The House has now moved to hybrid sittings, with some members being present in the chamber and others contributing virtually, screens being erected around the galleries.  This means that members who cannot be present physically can contribute virtually in any proceedings.  There is one other consequence that may not be widely recognised, but it is crucial in terms of the House carrying out its functions.  Sittings of the hybrid House, unlike those proceedings that had been held purely virtually, have the same status as normal sittings of the House.  The Mace is on the Woolsack and there must be a physical presence in the chamber of at least three members, the normal quorum for the House.  As a result, the hybrid House can take all the decisions that a normal sitting of the House can take.  The normal quorum of 30 for votes on bills and subordinate legislation is maintained.  Given the turnout in the voting that now takes place electronically, this is not a problem.

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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