Labour MPs Demand 'Compassion' From Government Whips On Commons Voting Rules

Injured Naz Shah was forced to enter lobby in a wheelchair.
Bradford West MP Naz Shah.
Bradford West MP Naz Shah.
PA Archive/PA Images

More than 40 Labour MPs are calling for reform of Commons rules after a sick MP had to enter the lobby in a wheelchair for a crunch Brexit vote.

Shadow early years minister Tracy Brabin has written to government chief whip Julian Smith calling the treatment of MPs during Wednesday night’s EU Withdrawal Bill amendment votes “pretty shabby and unedifying”.

In the letter, seen by HuffPost UK, Brabin calls for colleagues to be treated with “compassion” and said “the time has now come to develop a kinder and more humane workplace”.

Naz Shah travelled to Westminster having checked herself out of hospital in her pyjamas to vote on the ‘meaningful vote’ amendment, which was nullified after an eleventh hour compromise between Tory rebels and the government.

The Bradford West MP was pushed through the voting lobby in a wheelchair, carrying a cardboard sick bucket on her lap.

Naz Shah was pushed through the lobby in a wheelchair with injuries caused by a hit and run collision.
Naz Shah was pushed through the lobby in a wheelchair with injuries caused by a hit and run collision.
Naz Shah was pushed through the lobby in a wheelchair after a hit and run

Shah’s office say the MP had been in hospital in Bradford since Friday after a hit-and-run collision and went “absolutely against doctor’s advice” to sign a form to be allowed to leave.

Heavily-pregnant Laura Pidcock, MP for North West Durham, also had to make it through the lobby despite serious back pain.

Labour say the government suspended a convention, known as ‘nodding through’, which usually spares unwell MPs from having to enter the chamber if they can make it to the Parliamentary estate.

The party’s pairing whip, Mark Tami, told HuffPost UK: “To make a female member heavily sedated on morphine in her pyjamas with a sick bowl through the voting lobby and then have to go round a very odd route to get the wheelchair through, is not on.”

Commons leader Andrea Leadsom said she was “particularly sorry” that Shah had been “forced to come and vote”, but blamed Labour for her ordeal, saying they failed to report her condition in time.

“But the fact that she had to come all the way from Bradford when she was clearly so unwell is clearly a matter for the honourable lady’s party,” Leadsom added in the Commons on Thursday.

She said the government had only been told of Shah’s situation just after midday on Wednesday.

Theresa May won the vote on the EU Withdrawal Bill by 319 to 303.

Other MPs, including former minister Jo Swinson, are trying to push through rule reforms which would see pregnant Parliamentarians - or those who have just had a baby - given the right to nominate a proxy vote so they would not have to attend the Commons in person.

The Letter In Full

Dear Julian Smith,

We the undersigned write to you to express our anger regarding the actions of your office yesterday during the ‘Meaningful Vote’.

Members of Parliament were required to attend the vote when in pain, seriously unwell, and in one case in a wheelchair while on morphine.

Of course we understand this was an important and potentially tight vote and in such circumstances we understand attendance is vital. However there is a well-used convention in Parliament called ‘nodding through’, which allows MPs who are too unwell or unable to spend long periods in the House of Commons waiting to vote, to have their votes recorded in their absence with the permission of both sets of whips.

We have been made aware that your office were unwilling to participate in this practise yesterday.

We understand there was an initial agreement that was withdrawn at the last moment which meant a colleague wearing only her hospital nightwear had to go through the lobby, in a wheelchair, heavily medicated, nauseous and barely able to say her name.

Pretty shabby and unedifying.

Of course we understand that in the heat of politics, rash decisions can be made and that compassion for another’s wellbeing might not be an immediate priority.

However, yesterday’s actions should be a powerful indication that things must change.

We feel that having watched our colleagues suffer yesterday, the time has now come to develop a kinder and more humane workplace and a first step towards that would be to allow poorly colleagues to be automatically nodded through irrespective of party politics.

We look forward to hearing your response.

With regards

Rushanara Ali

Rosena Allin-Khan

Mike Amesbury

Tracy Brabin

Ruth Cadbury

Julie Cooper

Marsha de Cordova

Emma Dent Coad

Rosie Duffield

Hugh Gaffney

Ruth George

Louise Haigh

Carolyn Harris

Sue Hayman

Helen Hayes

Sharon Hodgson

Rupa Huq

Darren Jones

Preet Kaur Gill

Ged Killen

Stephen Kinnock

Karen Lee

Holly Lynch

Chris Matheson

Liz McInnes

Kate Osamor

Jess Phillips

Jo Platt

Yasmin Qureshi

Faisal Rashid

Angela Rayner

Danielle Rowley

Paula Sherriff

Tulip Siddiq

Naz Shah

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi

Alex Sobel

Laura Smith

Jo Stevens

Wes Streeting

Paul Sweeney

Thelma Walker

Matt Weston

Martin Whitfield


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