Unusual variation to sittings
25.90Starting in March 2020, the House of Lords made several changes to its procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic. This included the use of virtual sittings (Virtual Proceedings) and sittings which featured both physical and remote participation (Hybrid House). Because of the need to adapt procedure at pace and iteratively, the House delegated to the Procedure and Privileges Committee the ability to agree its own guidance for the Hybrid House which had the same authority as the Companion to the Standing Orders. Thus the parliamentary procedure for Virtual Proceedings and the Hybrid House was underpinned by successive editions of guidance from the Procedure and Privileges Committee.1
The following is a brief chronology of these developments:
- 16 April 2020 – Procedure and Privileges Committee meets remotely and agrees procedural guidance on virtual proceedings for certain categories of business.
- 21 April 2020 – House of Lords returns from the Easter recess and agrees a motion in the name of the Leader of the House enabling virtual proceedings to take pace. The first virtual oral questions take place on the same day. Virtual proceedings are not broadcast live during the first week.
- 23 April 2020 – For the first time, all proceedings are carried out virtually, including the first virtual debates.
- 28 April 2020 – Virtual proceedings are broadcast live for the first time.
- 30 April 2020 – Procedure and Privileges Committee publishes second guidance on virtual proceedings. This covers the committee stage of public bills taking place in virtual committee.
- 4 June 2020 – House agrees that from 8 June, there will no longer be separate physical and virtual proceedings. Instead there will be a Hybrid House, allowing both physical and remote participation for an item of business. To allow social distancing, a maximum of 30 Members can take part from the Chamber at any one time.
- 8 June 2020 – Start of the Hybrid House.
- 15 June 2020 – First division using the remote voting system takes place.
- 28 July 2020 – House agrees a motion enabling Hybrid Grand Committee meetings to take place.
- 2 September 2020 – House returns from the Summer recess and Hybrid Grand Committee sits for the first time.
- 11 May 2021 – 2021 Queen's Speech takes place with a reduced ceremony and with fewer people in attendance.
- 1. For successive editions of the Procedure and Privileges Committee's guidance, see committees.parliament.uk/committee/191/procedure-and-privileges-committee/publications/5/agendas-and-papers/