Proxy Voting

Part of Scallop Fishing: Bay of Seine – in the House of Commons at 4:10 pm on 13th September 2018.

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Photo of Valerie Vaz Valerie Vaz Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 4:10 pm, 13th September 2018

With the leave of the House, Mr Speaker, I will wind up on behalf of the Opposition.

I know that you have been here since 9.30 am, Mr Speaker, so you must be slightly frustrated. I am pleased to see that you have had a break, although I know you have great stamina. I start by paying tribute to you, because you must be frustrated in another sense, as you commissioned the “Good Parliament” report. That report flagged proxy voting, not least because the Parliaments of Australia and New Zealand have this process —the two processes work in slightly different ways, but they do work.

The Prime Minister of New Zealand has just given birth. She is also facing the criticism that women have to face nowadays, but she has had the support of the people of New Zealand, who said, “Our Prime Minister looks like us. She does the things that we do. She has had a baby and is balancing her working life with her family life.”

Again, I thank Mr Walker and members of the Procedure Committee, who I will name because they took the trouble to contribute to the debate: Bob Blackman, my hon. Friends the Members for Liverpool, Walton (Dan Carden), for Enfield, Southgate (Bambos Charalambous)—he has just made a very thoughtful contribution—and for Ogmore (Chris Elmore), and Sir David Evennett. I will be coming back to the contribution of David Linden in a minute. Sadly, Alison Thewliss has had to catch a flight, so she has apologised to all of us for not being here for the wind-ups.

Jo Swinson, who has obviously also had to leave, has shown exactly why new mums, dads and, of course, adoptive parents need breathing space. In her important contribution, the hon. Member for Glasgow Central made an important contribution in which she said that we have to make a decision soon. Helen Whately said that sometimes the pairing system can work, and it does. I remind everyone that proxy voting is a choice; it is not mandatory.

What can I say about my right hon. and learned Friend Ms Harman, other than that she has driven this issue forward, and she did so way before 1 February? I am sure that she, too, will want to see quick progress. As she said, we are ready to roll.

Matt Warman made an important contribution. He knows that, throughout the years, we have been covered by pairing and nodding through, and proxy voting is a much more up-to-date and much more formalised system.

I remember how my hon. Friend Emma Reynolds was vilified and how, as she was sitting here during the previous debate on this issue, TheyWorkForYou decided to change its mind on the policy—and rightly so. All credit to her for going through an election at a very difficult time. She is my constituency neighbour, and we all felt for her.

The hon. Members for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson) and for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford), and my hon. Friends the Members for Lewisham West and Penge (Ellie Reeves) and for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders), all made important contributions.

We are a modern Parliament, and we are up to date in certain aspects. That will continue but, as the Leader of the House and I have both said, we are not employees. We have different ways of working.

I wish the hon. Member for Glasgow East and his wife all the very best at this exciting time. We should all be with our newborn children—it really is a wonderful time. I am sure that his wife will be in very good hands, and mothers do need to take that extra time after having a C-section. You do need to be on hand; I am afraid that you will have to do all the heavy lifting—[Laughter.] Sorry, Mr Speaker; I mean the hon. Member for Glasgow East will have to do the heavy lifting, not you. I hope you are not going to be there. You have a job to do here, and we need you.

Proxy voting is a choice and it is tied up with the business of the House. It is right that the business managers should manage the business. We are in a hung Parliament. Members who use proxy voting should not have not to spend time finding a proxy. I hope that the process that I outlined earlier can be considered. The Leader of the House mentioned to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham that they should have a conversation about how to drive this issue forward, but it is important for the business managers to be involved, too, so I hope that the Leader of the House will ensure that the business managers of all parties are involved.

The Leader of the House said that she wants to take more evidence on unintended consequences and the various other issues that she outlined. Who will take that evidence? Is it a question of Members writing to her? Is she going to refer anything to the Procedure Committee for further inquiry? How long will the process take? What is the timeframe within which we can expect a substantive motion?

Finally, I wish to recognise that the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire has returned to the Chamber with baby Gabriel, who is asleep—I hope that that is not because of my speech. Perhaps we should all be quiet.

I wish to work with the Leader of the House, as do, I am sure, all our business managers. We have to get this right—and soon.