EVERY effort will be made to keep Parliament open throughout the coronavirus outbreak, the House of Commons Commission has said.

Commission member Pete Wishart said the aim will be for Parliament to remain open so MPs can fulfil their "democratic obligations", but the safety of all staff "will be constantly under review".

The SNP MP added there have been "no recent formal discussions" on implementing electronic voting to keep MPs away from the Commons, but "all feasible alternative arrangements would be looked at" if divisions could no longer occur.

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Pushed on the potential closure of Parliament by Labour's Clive Efford if the situation worsens, Wishart said: "Every effort is taking place to ensure that staff are kept safe and that exposure to risk is as minimal as possible.

"He's right to identify that every effort will be made to keep this place open so that we can fulfil our democratic obligations, but that will always be done with the safety of all who use the estate in mind and will be constantly under review.

"The commission has had no recent formal discussions on the potential merits of electronic voting.

"Colleagues on the Procedural Committee have examined what practical and procedural changes to divisions might be necessary in the context of the Covid-19 outbreak and I thank them for their work on this.

"I know that they will continue to keep this situation under review.

"Any decision to implement electronic voting would need to be agreed by the whole House."

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The SNP's Dave Doogan said: "The SNP have long advocated modernising this place so that votes do not take hours and as a relatively new member, I am shocked at the archaic practices that we as members have to undergo in order to vote.

"Does the member for the commission ever see this House leaving the late 19th century?"

Wishart replied: "Can I just say to him, in my almost 20 years in this House I've probably spent the best part of a week traipsing round the division lobbies exercising my democratic obligations as a member – it's a week which I'm certainly not going to be able to get back."

He added that a review into electronic voting was suspended due to the election but "so far no decision has been made to reopen that inquiry".

Fellow SNP MP Kenny MacAskill added: "Last week the House leader declined the idea of introducing deferred divisions.

"Given that we are in a changing landscape, that guidance has changed and that even within this chamber we are now self-distancing, can I ask the House commission whether they will reconsider that position?"

Wishart added: "The commission is acting with the most up-to-date medical advice as given from Public Health England and if at any point it was felt we couldn't continue with divisions in the current form, all feasible alternative arrangements would be looked at and put in place.

"I'll let members form their own view about the wisdom of packing division lobbies, cramped division lobbies if there were any further divisions in this House, but I note there has been none this week and I know it's the intention of whips in this House to ensure that we'll be using the divisions lobbies as infrequently as possible."