£3.5m spent towards 14,000 minutes of MPs standing in division lobbies

MPs spent an estimated 14,000 minutes standing in division lobbies during the 2010 – 2015 Parliament, according to analysis by WebRoots Democracy. This equates to almost an entire month, based on a working day of 8 hours. Using the value of MPs’ salaries over this period, the cost to the public purse is estimated at more than £3.5 million.

Division lobbies are the corridors in Parliament which are used to record the votes of MPs when there is a division. MPs stand in these corridors to have their vote counted as either “aye” or “no”.

During the 2010 to 2015 Parliament, there were 1,239 divisions. With each division lasting, on average, 11.5 minutes, this totals to more than 14,000 minutes or 233 hours.

houses of parliament division bell
The division lobby procedure dates as far back as the year 1771.

Unlike other Parliaments, such as the Scottish Parliament or the European Parliament, the UK Parliament does not use electronic voting and has instead maintained a system designed in the 18th century.

In the current Parliament, from June 2017, MPs have spent an estimated 3,500 minutes (58 hours) so far on a total of 302 divisions. Based on 2017 salaries, this equates to more than £1.3 million.

The cost of installing a new electronic voting system for the Scottish Parliament in 2011 was £270,000.

On Wednesday, MPs will be debating the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster. A number of MPs have called for Parliament to be modernised as part of this, with many calling for the introduction of electronic voting. Should Parliament be temporarily moved out during restoration works, it could present an opportunity to pilot a new mechanism of voting.

Update: Pete Wishart MP cites our research during a debate on the issue in the House of Commons.

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