Written evidence submitted by mySociety (PVX 09)

  1. TheyWorkForYou.com is a website, run by the charity mySociety, which aims to make Parliament easier for the layperson to understand. It presents such information as how MPs have voted, when they have spoken in debates, and  Written Questions they have submitted; it also sends emails out to users who have subscribed to their MP’s activity or to specific topics. It relies on the Open Data output by Parliament in order to fulfil these purposes. In 2019 there were 160,000 page views from the parliamentary estate, reflecting that it is used in the day to life of Parliament as well as by the public.
  2. We believe that the current proxy voting trial period has been a success, and should be formalised as a permanent feature of the standing orders.
  3. We are in favour of a formalised proxy voting system that can bring consistency to the voting activity of MPs during significant life events such as becoming a parent, and minimise confusion in the public perception around members’ leaves of absence.
  4. While proxy information has been incorporated into TheyWorkForYou, whether a vote was cast by proxy is inconsistently included in Parliament’s outputs. TheyWorkForYou currently parses the Hansard text output rather than the releases through data.parliament.uk, which include the vote but not the fact it was a proxy vote[1]. Ideally, this information should be included in the data output if it becomes a permanent feature.
  5. In our previous evidence, we shared that we have received requests from MPs that we record not only parental (‘baby’) leave, but also extended periods of leave due to serious illness. We believe this should also be brought into the scope of the proxy voting system. This allows clearer transparency in how citizens are being represented while allowing for the care and recovery of MPs than informal methods such as pairing, which become more stressed in times of governments with no or a small majority.
  6. Formal and well-developed practices become simple and reliable fallback options in times of crisis.

[1] For instance, https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2020-03-10/division/2D2C17CD-588D-412F-BF86-8B79B9ADCFF9/TelecommunicationsInfrastructure(LeaseholdProperty)Bill?outputType=Names contains proxy votes, but who cast them can’t be seen in the equivalent data release - http://lda.data.parliament.uk/commonsdivisions/id/1183864.json or http://api.data.parliament.uk/resources/files/1183864.xml