MOST people don’t think MPs should have to squeeze back into Westminster full-time after the Covid lockdown, but should be able to carry on working remotely.

A new poll found 51 per cent thought MPs should be able to debate and vote remotely after restrictions are lifted, compared to 35% who wanted them there in person.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of those surveyed saw remote voting and debating as helping MPs in remote and rural areas in particular make better use of their time.

In addition, 61% thought remote working would help more women and carers stand as MPs.

However, voters were largely unsure about whether remote working would lower the quality of debate or make MPs less effective at holding the government to account.

The findings have prompted call for a permanent end to the weekly back and forth between constituencies and the Commons and hours packed in voting lobbies.

Kezia Dugdale, director of the John Smith Centre at the University of Glasgow, which commissioned the research, said the benefits of remote working had to be set against the impact on debate and scrutiny at Westminster.

The Commons is currently operating as a hybrid parliament, with some MPs in attendance and others contributing online, but the rules allowing this are due to end on June 21, and the Government expects a full set  of MPs for Prime Minister's Questions on June 23.

The Lords are due to debate whether hybrid elements of their chamber continue later this week.

The arrival of the new Indian variant of Covid may influence their decision.

Ms Dugdale said: “As much as we all crave ‘going back to normal’, we should be asking ourselves and our leaders if that idea of ‘normal’ was really good enough.

“Because it’s not really normal to line up in the ‘aye’ and ‘no’ lobbies of Westminster to cast a vote with your whole body. Hours wasted passing legislation packed together like sardines.

“Neither is it normal to demand MSPs travel from Stranraer and Stromness to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh to electronically cast a tight budget vote that we now know could be easily done from a distance.

“This new polling shows a desire to keep the new way of working that was brought in as a result of Covid restrictions, particularly if it aids rural representation and increases the chances of parliamentarians looking like the country they seek to represent. 

“There’s much work to be done to enhance the effectiveness of parliament’s scrutiny functions, but after the year of innovation we’ve had, making the impossible possible, it’s surely within reach.”

Named after the UK Labour leader who died in 1994, the John Smith Centre aims to make the case for politics and public service, and reduce barriers to participation in the process.

Message House surveyed 2,099 people online UK-wide on May 10 and 11.