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Proxy voting in divisions in the House

Published Monday, July 2, 2018

On 5 July 2018, the House will debate the principle of proxy voting in divisions in the House of Commons.

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On 5 July 2018, the Government has scheduled a debate on the principle of proxy voting in divisions in the House of Commons.

The debate will take place before the Government makes its response to the report from the Procedure Committee on Proxy voting and parental absence, which was published on 15 May 2018.

Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the House of Commons, said that the debate would allow the constitutional issues of proxy voting to be discussed before she gave a considered response to the Procedure Committee.

The Procedure Committee’s inquiry followed a debate on baby leave on 1 February 2018, which supported calls for formalised arrangements for maternity, paternity and adoption leave for new parents in the House. The Good Parliament (July 2016) called for more formal arrangements. The Speaker’s Conference (on Parliamentary Representation) called on political parties to set out their policies on maternity, paternity and caring leave for Members; and invited the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority to consider formal arrangements maternity, paternity and caring leave for Members.

Procedure Committee proposals

The Procedure Committee brought forward proposals for a non-compulsory scheme for proxy voting that would require some changes to Standing Orders. It recommended that “proxy voting ought to be available to new mothers, new fathers and adoptive parents”. The scheme should operate under the authority of the Speaker, who would certify the appointment of a proxy.

It recommended that:

  • Eligibility would be confirmed by producing either a certificate of pregnancy or a ‘matching certificate’ from a registered adoption agency to the Speaker.
  • The dispensation to vote by proxy would be:
    • “Six months for the biological mother of a baby, or for the primary or single adopter of a baby or child;
    • “Two weeks for the biological father of a baby, the partner of the person giving birth or the second adopter of a baby or child”.

The Committee said that the new system would have to operate in a transparent way.

The Committee also considered whether a proxy should be exercised in all divisions or whether there should be restrictions. It proposed that subject to certain limitations a proxy could be exercised in almost all divisions and deferred divisions in the House, although it said that the House might impose further restrictions. It recommended that proxy votes should not be used in votes for an early general election under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 or in determining whether fewer than 40 Members had participated in a division.

The Procedure Committee recommended that the decision should be one for the House.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-8359

Author: Richard Kelly

Topics: Members of Parliament, Parliament, Parliamentary procedure

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