TWO government motions that will allow MPs at risk from coronavirus to take part in proceedings will “return Parliament into a truly democratic institution”, Marie Rimmer has said.

The Labour MP for St Helens South and Whiston did not return to Parliament this week as she has been classed as ‘clinically vulnerable’ due to her age.

This meant she was unable to vote on a motion put forward by Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, proposing to scrap the ‘hybrid’ system to force MPs back to the House.

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The hybrid system allowed up to 50 MPs to attend the Chamber in person with up to 120 others being able to contribute remotely, and also allowed some votes to be held remotely for the first time in Parliament’s history.

On Monday, a majority of 98 MPs voted to scrap digital voting, which has led to accusations from Labour of discriminating against older MPs, the disabled and those who live with the vulnerable.

“This week I and many other MPs were told not to go back,” said Ms Rimmer, who is 73.

“I followed this advice, which is in line with the official guidelines.

“Some MPs have been sent shielding letters by the NHS, while others are looking after vulnerable family members.

“But none of this should matter, Parliament needs to accommodate for this otherwise the system is undemocratic.

“The hybrid Parliament was working perfectly fine. It was tricky to get used to the system at first, but it was the least worst option available.

“Ensuring that every MP can vote and be heard is essential for our democracy.

“If MPs are not able to vote or speak in Parliament due to their personal circumstances, then parts of our country are not being represented during the biggest crisis we face in generations.”

St Helens Star: Marie Rimmer, Labour MP for St Helens South and Whiston, did not return to Parliament this weekMarie Rimmer, Labour MP for St Helens South and Whiston, did not return to Parliament this week

Tuesday’s vote saw hundreds of MPs queue for hours around the parliamentary estate to vote on the motion and prompted dozens of MPs to ridicule the arrangements online.

On Wednesday, Labour leader Keir Starmer said the scenes MPs queueing to vote and members being unable to vote were “shameful.”

The former barrister also said it was “clear and obvious case of indirect discrimination under Equalities Act”.

In response, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would allow proxy voting for MPs who are shielding or self-isolating due to coronavirus.

This evening MPs are expected to vote on a government motion on whether to allow members to participate in proceedings on Questions, Urgent Questions and Statements virtually, if they are unable to attend at Westminster for medical or public health reasons related to the pandemic.

A second motion also proposes to allow MPs at high risk from coronavirus either because ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ or ‘clinically vulnerable’ to arrange for their vote to be cast by proxy.

Ms Rimmer said: “I support the motions that will help return Parliament into a truly democratic institution.

“Every MP and the community they represent must have their vote and voice heard.”

Downing Street are also confirmed on Wednesday night that Business Secretary Alok Sharma was self-isolating at home, hours after he appeared visibly unwell in Parliament.

Mr Sharma has been tested for coronavirus and he tests positive, this will mean many MPs who came into contact with him will need to self-isolate for 14 days.

Ms Rimmer said: “I wish Alok Sharma a speedy recovery, but it highlights the risks of an enforced return to a physical Parliament.

“He could have come into close contact with many MPs in the House of Commons or in the ridiculously long queue to vote.

“The government has made a mess of this situation.

“A kilometre-long queue across the parliamentary estate, with votes taking significantly longer than normal. It’s turning the mother of parliaments into a laughing stock.

“But even worse it makes Parliament less efficient and means that MPs will have less time to help constituents.

“I want to spend my time helping constituents get through this crisis, not stood in a long line for hours each day.”