Commons to decide on proxy voting trial after outcry over treatment of pregnant MPs

Posted On: 
22nd January 2019

The House of Commons will be asked to decide whether to grant MPs on maternity or paternity leave the right to vote by proxy, ministers have announced.

Tulip Siddiq, with her newborn son Raphael
Credit: 
PA Images

Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom said MPs would vote on Monday 28 January whether to approve a one-year pilot scheme that would allow an MP to vote on another’s behalf.

“This is a really positive moment for many colleagues across the House,” she said.

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“It is clear to me that the balance of opinion is that baby leave is both a unique period of time and is crucial for new parents.

This is a step forward, removing the choice between parliamentary and parental responsibilities and helping to make parliament a more modern workplace.

“I do hope that the House will be of the same opinion and that it will fully support the motion next week."

It comes amid anger over Labour MP Tulip Siddiq being forced to postpone her caesarean section last week in order to vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson, who brought forward the urgent question in which the Government announced its plans, expressed her support, but said the incident involving Ms Siddiq was “shameful”.

The party’s deputy leader also took aim at ministers again over the pairing system, which has been championed by ministers as the means in which absent members can have their votes cancelled out by another.

It follows last summer’s controversy in which the Conservative whip was accused of reneging on an arrangement to pair Ms Swinson with a Tory MP in a bid to sneak through a victory for the Government on Brexit legislation.

The East Dunbartonshire MP said she was “sceptical” over the explanation that it had been a mistake, adding that it had “cheated” her constituents “out of their voice on one of the biggest issues of our time”.

“Some members of the government, not the leader of the House, have been dragged kicking and screaming to this position," she said.

“We have waited long enough for his change. Modernising the House of Commons is a slow and laborious process - frankly its often quite like child birth - so let’s get on with it”.