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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Will the House of Commons finally grasp the nettle on reform?

The decision of Labour’s Tulip Siddiq to delay her caesarean section last week so she could be wheeled into the lobbies to vote has hopefully knocked some common sense into those in the UK Government who were delaying reform on the way the House of Commons operates.

As the Independent reports, Commons leader Andrea Leadsom announced MPs would finally be able to approve a “substantive motion” on proxy voting on Monday, allowing the changes to voting for new parents to be brought forward within days.

Ms. Siddiq, who represents Hampstead and Kilburn said she defied doctors’ advice because she did not trust the government to honour pairing arrangements, after Tory chairman Brandon Lewis broke a pact with new mother Jo Swinson in a knife-edge Brexit vote last year.

The current system for parental leave is informal and organised by the political parties, where whips make pairing arrangements so an MP from a rival party does not vote along with the absent politician.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Ms Swinson, who tabled the urgent question, is absolutely right in welcoming the pilot scheme and in her remarks about the move being long “overdue”.

She said: “I thought things were pretty bad when back in June, in the heatwave, I was 10 days past my due date – but the government’s response to the House’s instruction to introduce proxy voting gives a whole new meaning to the word overdue.

“It’s shameful that last week Tulip Siddiq was put in the invidious position of having to try to make a choice between potential health risks to her baby and whether or not her constituents could have their voice heard on the biggest issue of our time.

“Nobody should be put in that position.”

Anybody in the Government who has been delaying this move up to now should hang their head in shame.
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