The European Parliament agreed yesterday (26 February) to extend the roll call system to votes cast in committees, a move civil society organisations say will increase the transparency of MEPs' work.

Starting at the next European Parliament's Strasbourg session on 10 March, MEPs individual voting records will be extended to votes on non-binding resolutions in plenary, as well as final votes on resolutions and on legislation in the parliament's committees.

The extension of these records is due to a change in the European Parliament's internal rules, which was passed on Wednesday by its members in Strasbourg with a total of 617 votes in favour, 23 against and 12 abstentions. 

Civil society organisations called it "an important step forward" for the transparency of the Parliament's decision making.

Even though bill has to pass a plenary vote for final approval, they are shaped in the parliament's committees, where MEPs adopt proposals first. Such committee members often advise their fellow group members on how to vote in the plenary. Most committee decisions are adopted by a show of hands, unless a quarter of the committee's members request a vote by roll call.

The amended rules adopted by the Parliament, now state that roll call is required in the case of a single and/or final vote on a report (and a quarter of the members can still request roll call votes in all other cases).

Details of the MEPs individual voting records have been accessible for some time - on the website of transparency organisation VoteWatch, amongst others - but were largely restricted to the votes in plenary. 

The voting records have also become a powerful tool for civil society organisations to boost transparency and inform the European public of how their representatives vote. 

A recent example of this is MyVote2014, a voting simulator released in September, which matches the voting preference of EU citizens to the track record of MEPs across Europe. The simulator then shows users the MEP who most closely matches their preferences, providing a recommendation of sorts for who to vote for in the EU elections, next May.

NGOs and activists have also used the data for websites like LobbyPlag, on data protection, or a website ranking MEPs on a number of climate-related votes.