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MP caring for disabled wife says Government 'silencing' him amid bitter row over end of virtual Commons

MP caring for disabled wife says Government 'silencing' him amid bitter row over end of virtual Commons

Lib Dem MP Jamie Stone. Credit: Lib Dems

3 min read

A Lib Dem MP who has been his disabled wife's carer for 21 years has warned the Government is silencing the voices of his constituents by refusing to extend the proxy voting system.

Jamie Stone has spent lockdown simultaenously caring for his wife, Flora, and participating in the 'virtual Parliament' set up to allow MPs to debate and vote while they could not attend the Commons.

Writing for The House, Mr Stone said he was "furious" when Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg announced this week that the Government planned to bring the arrangements to an end and had been left with "no option" but to open up about his personal circumstances.

"During lockdown, the usual care arrangements were not really possible. But because of that same lockdown, it meant that I was at home to take over the care duties myself," he said.

"While my constituents tell me that they absolutely understand why I don’t want to risk bringing the virus North, I believe that they deserve full-blooded representation at all times. That’s why being able to participate and vote remotely was a godsend.

"Tuesday ended with me having to watch drones of Conservative MPs voting to end the virtual Parliament, despite in private many criticising Jacob Rees-Mogg’s ridiculous queue system. I was left trying to figure out how to tell my constituents that their voice was being silenced for this farce."

While intitally planning to force all MPs to vote in person, ministers U-turned ahead of a crunch vote on the plans earlier this week and said proxy votes would be available for members who are shielding and those who have to care for children. 

The proxy system was approved on Thursday, with no stipulation that members with caring responsibilities will be able to take part at a distance.

Mr Stone said: "I will be able to participate virtually. I can raise issues on behalf of my constituents who are struggling to make ends meet as a result of the pandemic.  

"The right to speak up for them is fundamental to my role as their MP – but so is the right for me to vote."

The Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross MP said the Government has "forgotten" carers and issued a plea to Mr Rees-Mogg to "let carers vote".

He added: "They still want to silence me and my constituents. 

"It seems to me desperately unfair that my personal circumstances should preclude me from voting...What message does that send to carers of disabled adults across the country? 

"The Government is clearly not in touch with people on this. Denying me a vote isn't really about me, the MP, at all. It's about the rights of my constituents to have a voice in Westminster. It’s about the rights of carers to not be ignored - to not be an afterthought."

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Rees-Mogg told the Commons MPs had a "democratic duty" to vote in person.

"We made commitments to the British people in December to get bills through parliament," the Leader said. “We should also lead by example; across country people are going back to work."

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