THERE was anger and chaos in the House of Commons yesterday as the Tories railroaded through measures to halt virtual proceedings, which have allowed MPs to vote online, and force them to attend the Parliament in person.

As members on the Tory benches laughed and sniggered at Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader lowered his papers and told them angrily: “It is a bit ridiculous that members on the Government bench think this is funny, really. You think this is funny?

“This is serious because we’re talking about the lives of our constituents. This is ludicrous and a waste of our time. I’m sure our constituents would wish us to use our time, more effectively.”

READ MORE: 'You think this is funny?' – Blackford blasts laughing Tories

Blackford said the House of Lords would soon have a remote voting system to allow peers to cast votes using a smartphone and tablet, and asked why a similar system could not be used in the Commons.

He then asked what efforts had been made to disinfect the benches in the House as Covid-19 was known spread on contact and could last for “hours, if not days” on hard surfaces.

As the giggling continued from the Tory benches, Blackford, who was referring to a spike in Covid-19 cases in Singapore linked to churches there, said: “I have to say that I find the attitude of some members opposite quite deplorable.

“The UK Parliamentary Procedure Committee has called for remote voting and participation to remain an option for as long as the pandemic continues. And that should be the position that we adopt.

Blackford added: “I’m getting a bit fed up of the remarks which are coming from opposite about this being indulgent.

“I’ll tell you what’s being indulgent, it is MPs being dragged here when we know the hybrid system works and MPs risk being disenfranchised by the Government ... we’re experiencing a democratic deficit imposed by the UK Government.”

The chaos ensued during divisions in the debate, when MPs had to join a queue of Alton Towers proportions that snaked for several hundred metres through Westminster Hall to the newer Portcullis House. Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle and his officials had to repeatedly shout instructions at MPs as they joined the socially distanced queue, remained two metres apart and announced their vote after walking through the Commons chamber.

Karen Bradley, a Tory who chairs the Procedure Committee, moved an amendment to keep remote voting in place in the coming weeks, with several of her own MPs rebelling to support the proposal.

But it was defeated by 185 votes to 242, a majority of 57, following a 46-minute division.

MPs later approved the Government’s motion to only allow them to vote in person by 261 votes to 163, a 98-vote majority.

Male MPs are normally required to wear a suit but the rule is not as strict during votes. The SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, Gavin Newlands and Ian Mearns, the Labour member for Gateshead, were among those who voted wearing T-shirts and shorts.

Hoyle could be heard telling some MPs who dawdled: “Why are we not keeping up? There are other members waiting.”

Some MPs also appeared confused at the new voting procedures.

A number of Tories tried to exit the chamber through the wrong door, despite being told by the Speaker moments earlier the correct way to go.

DUP MP Jim Shannon initially walked up to the “noes” column, before correcting himself and walking through the “ayes” section.

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said he would table a motion today to enable MPs unable to attend Parliament on medical grounds to take part in certain proceedings, including questions, urgent questions and ministerial statements.

He said he expected “teething problems” with the new voting system, and was asked by Labour’s Chris Bryant: “Have you ever been to Alton Towers?”

Rees-Mogg replied: “Indeed, yes I have, I took my sister Annunziata there many years ago.”

Labour’s, shadow Commons leader Valerie Vaz asked if a risk assessment had been conducted for Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) parliamentary staff who had returned to work.

With the pandemic continuing, she questioned if Rees-Mogg was “living in another universe”.