Breaking vote pairs has ‘appalling consequences for government’, says Michael Heseltine

Posted On: 
21st July 2018

Michael Heseltine has warned breaking House of Commons voting conventions could have “appalling consequences” as the pairing scandal rumbled on. 

The former senior Cabinet minister spoke out as the pairing scandal rumbled on
PA Images

Lord Heseltine, once a senior Cabinet minister in John Major’s government, said he was deeply concerned by the idea of pushing Brexit through using “any device, threat, or chicanery”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One: “There is no excuse for breaking one’s word.

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“Breaking a pair has the most appalling consequences for the management of government in this country.”

Tory chief whip Julian Smith has faced mounting pressure to resign after it emerged he admitted breaking convention to secure a key Brexit vote.

A furious row erupted after it emerged Conservative chairman Brandon Lewis broke a so-called "pairing" arrangement with Lib Dem deputy leader Jo Swinson, who has just had a baby.

Under the longstanding convention, an MP who cannot physically be in the Commons because of illness or maternity leave is paired with a colleague so as to cancel out their vote.

Both Mr Smith and Mr Lewis have insisted that they broke the arrangement on a customs union vote on Tuesday - which the Government won by just six - in "error".

But The Times reported that afterwards, Mr Smith conceded to another party's chief whip that he had instructed Mr Lewis to vote - but that he did not know he was paired with Ms Swinson.

At a press conference in Belfast yesterday, Theresa May again insisted the row was the result of an “honest mistake”.