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Sat, 23 January 2021

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John Bercow says it is ‘lamentable’ that Labour MP forced to postpone birth over crucial Brexit vote

John Bercow says it is ‘lamentable’ that Labour MP forced to postpone birth over crucial Brexit vote
3 min read

John Bercow has blasted the delay in introducing proxy voting to the Commons after an MP revealed she will delay the birth of her child to vote against Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

Tulip Siddiq has postponed having her caesarean section from tomorrow until Thursday so that she could be in Parliament late tomorrow evening to cast her vote.

The Labour MP told the Evening Standard that she planned to be taken through the lobby in a wheelchair by her husband Chris at tomorrow evening’s crunch vote.

Following an urgent question by Harriet Harman, Commons Speaker Mr Bercow criticised the lack of progress in bringing proxy voting in, despite the first debate on the matter having been held a year ago.

Under those proposals, MPs who are unable to be in Parliament to vote due to illness or pregnancy would have their votes cast by someone else on their behalf.

Ms Harman told MPs: “[Miss Siddiq] should not have to choose between going through the division lobby in a wheelchair, nine months pregnant, having postponed her caesarean or losing her right to vote.”

Her Labour colleague Emma Reynolds said: “How many babies do we collectively have to have in this House before we see any change?  

“I will probably be on my second before we have a policy to change and introduce proxy votes and I would just urge that there should be some urgency to this reform of the House.”

Mr Bercow said it was “uncivilised” that Ms Siddiq should have to attend the vote in her condition, and blasted “reactionary forces” who he suggested were halting progress.

He added that ministers could allow the MP to use a proxy vote tomorrow or that she be “nodded through” – whereby she would need to be in the Palace grounds, but would not need to proceed through the lobby.

“It is extremely regrettable that almost a year after the first debate and over four months after the second debate, this change has not been made,” he said.

“This is frankly lamentable, lamentable.

"Lamentable and very disadvantageous and injurious to the reputation of this House so if there is agreement that can be reached between the usual channels today and I’m chairing in the Chamber so members will need to come and tell me what has been agreed, I myself am very happy to facilitate a change for tomorrow.”

He added: “It really is time in pursuit of the expressed will of this House that reactionary forces are overcome and if people want to express their position let them not do it murkily behind the scenes, let them have the character to say upfront that they oppose progressive change and I hope that we can get progressive change, and what better opportunity to do so than before our historic vote tomorrow.”

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