Ministers to ‘bring forward proxy vote change in autumn’ following pairing row
The Government will table a motion to allow proxy voting on Commons legislation from September in light of last week’s broken pair at a crunch Brexit vote.
Brandon Lewis sparked outrage on Tuesday when he voted on two knife edge-divisions on Brexit legislation, despite Lib Dem Jo Swinson, who has just had a baby, being assured he would not do so.
The longstanding parliamentary convention allows MPs who are on maternity leave, ill or out of the country to be “paired off” with an opposing colleague so as to cancel out their vote.
The row has seen pressure heaped on Tory whip Julian Smith, amid claims he purposely called on Mr Lewis to break the convention so as to swing the vote.
A bid by Tory rebels to keep Britain in an EU customs union was seen off by just six votes.
The Times reports a Whitehall source as saying MPs would be allowed to appoint a stand-in from their own party to vote on their behalf should members back plans to be brought forward next term.
Proxy voting has been pushed for by Ms Swinson in the last week and is supported by Speaker John Bercow and Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom.
Pressure to make the change is further mounting after a cross-party group of female MPs wrote to Theresa May, pressing for action to “ensure new parents can spend time with their new babies uninterrupted”.
The letter, signed by MPs including Harriet Harman and Luciana Berger, adds: “We simply cannot rely on arcane practices to ensure that new parents like Jo have the peace of mind they deserve.”
Labour last week called on the Tory party to come clean on what was known by Mr Lewis and Mr Smith, after they said it was hard to believe the justification given, including by the Prime Minister, that it was an “honest mistake”.