Procedure Committee (Commons)

Voting by proxy in the House of Commons inquiry

Inquiry status: open

Scope of the inquiry

The House of Commons Procedure Committee is examining how to implement the House’s decision of 1 February on proxy voting and 'baby leave' for MPs.

On Thursday 1 February the House of Commons resolved “That this House believes that it would be to the benefit of the functioning of parliamentary democracy that honourable Members who have had a baby or adopted a child should for a period of time be entitled, but not required, to discharge their responsibilities to vote in this House by proxy".

Consequently, the Procedure Committee has decided to examine:—

  1. whether a formal system of voting by proxy is required to implement the House's resolution, and
  2. if so, how such a system should operate.

Terms of reference:

1. How a system of proxy voting might operate in the House of Commons.

  • Under what circumstances an MP ought to be entitled to appoint a proxy; and who ought to determine whether an MP wishing to appoint a proxy meets the criteria
  • Whether proxy voting should be confined to the Chamber or whether it should be available for use in other House bodies (such as general committees or select committees) and/or for House elections via written ballot
  • What effect such a system might have on present informal arrangements such as ‘pairing’.

2. What the practical requirements of appointing a proxy would be.

  • Whether the appointment of a proxy would require any form of prior approval
  • Which MPs ought to be eligible to act as proxies
  • How the appointment of a proxy might be (a) registered and (b) transparently communicated to the House and the public
  • Whether proxy appointments ought to be time limited, and whether they ought to be capable of cancellation and later resumption

3. How a proxy vote would operate.

  • Whether, and how, a proxy might be bound to vote in the way mandated by the MP appointing the proxy
  • How a vote by proxy ought to be (a) cast and (b) recorded

4. How proxy voting is managed in other legislatures (a) in the UK (b) in other Westminster-based systems and (c) under other parliamentary systems.

A paper submitted to the Procedure Committee by the Clerk of the House of Commons is available to read here. (PDF PDF 256 KB)

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