One of the key reasons why MPs – particularly backbenchers – like the current system is that it requires Ministers to be physically present in the voting lobby each day. This gives backbenchers a valuable opportunity to talk to them, in private, about constituency or policy issues. However, 650 MPs voting personally in the lobby does take up a lot of time and can be disruptive to Ministers’ diaries during the day.
The Speaker’s Digital Democracy Commission calculated that if 3 minutes per vote had been saved in the 2010-12 session, it would have saved each MP 27 hours of time. It has recommended that in future smart identity cards should be used by MPs to record their votes electronically. This would enable the votes to be recorded and published more quickly – but the card readers would be placed only in the voting lobbies to ensure that MPs have to be present thereby retaining the advantage of the present system. You can read more about this in the Commission’s report, ‘Open up!‘.
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Image: House of Commons Division Lobby (UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor)