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Commons will decide on proxy voting next week - Commons Leader

22 January 2019 (updated on 22 January 2019)

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Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson, asked the Government an urgent question on the issue of proxy voting in the House of Commons.

This follows the recent incident during the 'meaningful vote' in which Labour MP, Tulip Siddiq, delayed the birth of her child in order to participate in the vote last week.

Current arrangements between parties allow Members to be absent from attending the House through ‘pairing'. Pairing is an informal arrangement between two MPs of opposing parties to not vote in a particular division, enabling an MP to be absent without affecting the result of the vote. However it has been suggested that the existing practices of the House are not adequate enough.

On 1 February 2018, the House passed the following resolution:

"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."

The Procedure Committee looked into how the House's decision in principle might operate in practice. 

Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, responded to the urgent question, confirming that a substantive motion on proxy leave in the case of maternity, paternity and adoption had been tabled, and would be voted on by the House on Monday 28 January.

Jo Swinson replied to the Leader of the Commons and thanked her for the work she had done on this issue. However, she described the fact that proxy voting did not yet exist as "shameful", and said some members of the Government had been "dragged kicking and screaming to this point".

Image: PC/Mark Duffy

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