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Parental leave proxy voting gets support from UK lawmakers amid Brexit saga

Parental leave proxy voting gets support from UK lawmakers amid Brexit saga
It will allow new parents to nominate a colleague to vote on their behalf. Image Credit: Reuters

British lawmakers have approved a year-long trial of proxy voting for MPs on parental leave from Tuesday. MPs have been discussing the idea for several months but matters came to a head when one of their numbers postponed a Caesarian section in order to vote in Britain's long-running Brexit saga.

The motion was passed late Monday. It will allow new parents to nominate a colleague to vote on their behalf. Currently, MPs walk through two lobbies to cast their vote, effectively being counted in person.

If members cannot get to parliament to vote, they can pair up with an MP from the opposing side who likewise does not vote, so the overall outcome is unaffected. As a last resort, a system is known as "nodding through" allows an MP's vote to be counted if they are on the parliamentary estate but cannot physically walk through the lobbies.

In the past, this has seen MPs vote by being driven through the estate in an ambulance. Opposition Labour MP Tulip Siddiq postponed the birth of her son Raphael by Caesarean section so she could be wheeled into the chamber to vote on Brexit earlier this month.

"I believe I will be the first MP to vote by proxy," she said ahead of Tuesday's crunch votes on Britain's Brexit strategy. "Raphael and I are so grateful that I can represent my constituents in these important votes." The long-established pairing system broke down last year when the government breached a pairing arrangement with pregnant opposition Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson. The government claimed it was an accident.

Swinson said the new motion was "very welcome and long overdue". "No member of parliament should have to choose between ensuring their constituents are represented on important votes and caring for their newborn child," she said. The vote "marks a baby step in the right direction in bringing parliament into the 21st century". The new proxy vote trial will also apply to MPs who have suffered a miscarriage.

(With inputs from agencies.)

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