By far the biggest impact on my work as an MP has been on my constituency work. With my constituency team, we have made alternative arrangements so that casework, which I have always regarded as the single biggest priority, can still be done. A lot of other constituency activities have had to be reduced or stopped altogether. This will not be affected by whether I am working from home or travelling back and forward to Westminster. There will also be no impact on the regular and very useful meetings I would usually have at Westminster with organisations such as charities, business organisations etc. Even if I was at Westminster, parliament is still closed to visitors so none of these organisations would be able to come in.
There is also the work that goes on in the House of Commons chamber and in committees. My job in helping to hold the Government to account, and in voting on behalf of my constituents, is an important job. During lockdown the staff of the House of Commons have done a remarkable job in setting up the technological capacity to allow MPs to do this work from home. We’ve been able to submit questions to ministers, apply to take part in debates or ask questions on government statements, and vote for or against legislation such as the Immigration Bill. I’ve been able to play a full part in the work of the Public Accounts Committee and we have produced several detailed reports into the Government’s management of public money.
I won’t pretend that doing all this by video call is ideal but it has allowed MPs to do the essential parts of our parliamentary work. Some MPs who have specific roles either in parliament or within their respective political groups may find that it’s much more difficult for them to do their jobs without being physically present in Parliament. My judgement, however, is that at the present time the additional benefit my constituents would see from me being at Westminster is outweighed by the additional risk that I would help to spread COVID-19.
It’s also very important to remember that what we had before lockdown was very far from ideal. The biggest obstacle to “holding the Government to account” is not the coronavirus lockdown, it’s a parliamentary and government system that’s designed to make sure parliament does what the Government tells it rather than the other way around.