Remote meetings update19th of October, 2023
MPs overturn House of Lords on remote meetings
I was bitterly disappointed to see the House of Commons vote last night to support a government motion to overturn the House of Lords amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill on remote meetings.
Peers had previously voted in favour of a new clause in the Bill at the Report Stage, giving councils the flexibility to hold remote and hybrid council meetings. This is among the many issues NALC’s president, Baroness Scott of Needham Market, has been championing throughout the Bill’s passage.
Ahead of yesterday’s debate, NALC had briefed MPs to make the case again for why councils should be given this power, with several Conservative MPs, including Greg Smith MP and Sir Peter Bottomly MP, speaking in favour of the move, citing our briefing and evidence gathered during our survey of councils last year. Speaking for the opposition, Matthew Pennycook MP also voiced their support, stating,
“We remain firmly of the view that there are circumstances in which virtual or hybrid meetings are necessary or useful and that their use could help to reduce barriers to public engagement".
In her reply, Rachel Maclean MP, minister of state for housing and planning, said,
“It is our strong view that one of the core principles of local democracy is that citizens can attend council meetings to interact in person with their local representatives. There are no limits placed on authorities broadcasting their meetings online, and we disagree that councillors should be able to attend those meetings and cast their votes remotely. It is important that they are present, active participants in local democracy. Therefore, the government are not able to support Lords amendment 22”.