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Procedure Committee publishes report on proxy voting and presence of babies in the Commons Chamber

1 July 2022

The House of Commons Procedure Committee publishes a report making recommendations on the extension of proxy voting arrangements and the matter of MPs bringing babies into the Chamber.

The report is the culmination of inquiries undertaken by the Committee where it heard a wide range of views from MPs across the House.

Voting by proxy

On the matter of proxy voting, the Committee previously recommended that a system of proxy voting for parental absence in the House of Commons be made permanent, which the House agreed to in September 2020. Since then, following calls to extend eligibility for proxy voting arrangements to include grounds other than parental absence—such as long-term illness—the Committee has been investigating options.

The Committee’s report noted that “the overwhelming balance of evidence we heard was in favour of an extension of proxy voting to include serious long-term illness”, adding that “it remains to be seen if this view is shared in the House.”

The Committee’s report noted the importance of proxy voting being an additional option alongside ‘pairing’ and ‘nodding through’ mechanisms that Members can also currently use to vote. The Committee recommended that the Government schedule a debate before the House rises for the summer, to allow the House as a whole to express a view on the principle of whether the proxy voting scheme should be extended to include Members with serious long-term illness. Should the view of the House be consistent with the Committee’s evidence supporting an extension of eligibility, the Committee recommended a pilot scheme be introduced.

Babies in the Chamber

On the topic of the presence of babies in the Chamber, referred to the Committee by the Speaker last year, the Committee noted that “long-standing practice of the House […] is that babies should not be present in the Chamber and Westminster Hall.” The Committee came to the conclusion that:

  • Members should not bring babies with them into the Chamber, Westminster Hall or general committees when they are seeking to observe, initiate, speak or intervene in proceedings
  • This should remain in guidance issued by the Speaker
  • Chairs should retain a degree of de facto discretion which should be exercised sparingly
  • The Liaison Committee should consider how far practice in select committees should mirror other settings and, if necessary, agree guidance which would cover both Members and witnesses.

Following evidence from Stella Creasy MP about her recent experience, the Committee also recommended the Government ensure a nominated member of staff of any Member exercising a proxy vote has access to any meetings, calls or briefings made generally available to MPs, with the aim of empowering staffers to further support MPs using a parental proxy.

Chair's comment

Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP, Chair of the Procedure Committee, said:

“Following the Committee’s earlier work on proxy voting, and the House agreeing with our recommendation to make proxy voting for parental leave a permanent feature, it was perhaps no surprise for us to find in our inquiry the overwhelming balance of evidence supported extending eligibility for proxy votes to Members experiencing serious long-term illness.

“We now call on the Government to schedule a debate in the coming weeks to give the House a chance to debate whether proxy voting should be extended in this way, as a pilot and subject to a review.

“On the balance of evidence received, the Committee also recommends that current rules remain and Members should not bring babies into the House of Commons Chamber or Westminster Hall proceedings.

“Many of the issues raised in our inquiry relate to the intersection between Members’ personal and professional circumstances. We join the Women and Equalities Committee’s recent calls for the House of Commons Commission to take stock of recommendations made in this space in recent years. The Procedure Committee stands ready to advise the House on any consequences for procedure and practice in the Commons.”

Further information

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