COMMONS

Proposals for proxy voting for MPs on parental absence

15 May 2018

The Procedure Committee has published its response to the resolution of the House of Commons of 1 February 2018, which called for MPs who have had a baby or adopted a child to be entitled, but not required, to cast votes in the House by proxy for a period of time.

The Committee sets out practical proposals for the House to consider, should it wish to establish a system of proxy voting for MPs who are new parents. 

Current arrangements between some of the parties allow Members to be absent from attending the House through 'pairing', whereby a Member is matched with a Member from the opposite side of the House, with both Members agreeing not to attend particular votes.

Recommendations

The report recommends that:

  • Participation in a proxy voting scheme should not be compulsory, and eligible parents are entitled to vote in person or to be paired under existing arrangements if they wish.
  • A proxy voting scheme approved by the House should operate under the authority of the Speaker, who will certify the appointment of a proxy.
  • The names of MPs taking up their eligibility for a proxy vote, and the name of the MP acting as a proxy, ought to be published. Changes to a proxy arrangement ought to require a period of notice. 
  • Proxy voting ought to be available for use in divisions on all public and private business in the Chamber as well as in deferred divisions and in ballots for the election of the Speaker, Deputy Speakers and select committee chairs.
  • The House ought to decide whether proxy voting ought to be restricted to voting on Mondays to Thursdays only, or restricted to votes on Government business.
  • Proxy voting ought not be used for votes on motions to call an early parliamentary general election, and proxy votes ought not to be counted when deciding whether the House is quorate. The House ought to decide whether proxy votes ought to be counted when deciding whether there is a sufficient majority (100 in favour) for a closure of debate.
  • Members should bear the reputation of the House in mind in choosing whether to take up their entitlement to a proxy vote in highly significant divisions, such as on whether to commit troops to armed conflict.

Any scheme implemented by the House will be reviewed by the Procedure Committee after 12 months of operation.

Chair's comments

Commenting on the publication of the report, the Chair of the Procedure Committee, Charles Walker OBE MP said:

"On 1 February the House passed a resolution proposing to establish a system of proxy voting for MPs. The Procedure Committee’s remit is to advise the House on its procedures, and so it undertook a swift inquiry to inform the House whether, and how, its proposal could be implemented.

The Committee does not offer a view on the merits of the 1 February resolution. Its report does set out a practical way for the House to implement its decision on offering a proxy voting option to new parents who have to be away from the House.

The Committee’s recommendations provide a workable scheme which complements the existing informal arrangements between the parties on managing absence from votes in the House.

It is now for the House to decide whether to implement the arrangements foreseen in its resolution of 1 February."

Further information

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