POLITICS
22/01/2019 13:21 GMT | Updated 22/01/2019 14:21 GMT

MPs On Maternity Or Paternity Leave To Be Allowed To Vote By Proxy

Historic change will be piloted for a year if MPs back it.

MPs on maternity or paternity leave will be allowed to vote by proxy if parliament agrees, the government has announced.

The historic change to parliamentary rules comes after a heavily pregnant Labour MP postponed a Caesarean section in order to vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal last week.

Tulip Siddiq said the incident showed parliament needed “dragging into the 21st century ASAP”.

Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the Commons, said today the scheme will be trialed for one year.

“This is a step forward, removing the choice between parliamentary and parental responsibilities, and helping to make parliament a more modern workplace,” she told MPs.

“I profoundly believe that all new parents should be able to spend uninterrupted time with their new baby. This is vital for both the physical and mental wellbeing of parents and babies.”

If approved by MPs next week, proxy voting will be available in cases of childbirth or care of an infant or newly-adopted child.

Under the plan, new mothers and fathers will be able to nominate another MP as a proxy to vote on their behalf.

The new system will be administered by John Bercow, the Commons Speaker.

Labour MP Jess Phillips said a “feminist army” would go after any MP who tried to block the change.

She told the Commons she would “personally make a misery of the life of anyone who comes in here and objects, based on the patriarchal, paternalistic, draconian and old-fashioned sensibilities”.

Last week Bercow said there had been a “lamentable failure of leadership” to introduce changes to allow a colleague to register a vote on behalf of an MP absent on maternity or paternity leave.

This morning The Times reported that Tory chief whip Julian Smith had been trying to “obstruct” the change in the voting system as he attempts to win support in the Commons for the PM’s Brexit deal.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Jo Swinson has said if that was true then he should resign.