Tag Archives: pairing

MP delays childbirth to vote on Brexit – sparking row over Tory untrustworthiness. Here’s the reason

Tulip Siddiq: Tory treachery is forcing her to take dedication to democracy to a rarely-seen degree.

Remember when Tory Party chairman Brandon Lewis broke a “pairing agreement” with a Liberal Democrat who was on maternity leave so his government could win a Brexit vote? Tulip Siddiq does.

Pairing is a longstanding convention in the House of Commons, where the whips of the government and an opposition party agree to allow MPs from one side to miss a vote because of personal reasons or official business. The other party agrees to hold back one of their MPs from voting so the two absences cancel each other out.

But it seems Conservative chief whip Julian Smith has been trying to get his party’s MPs to betray that convention. He was successful in getting Mr Lewis to vote on Brexit legislation when he had said he would absent himself to accommodate the fact that Jo Swinson was having a baby.

Remember?

Tulip Siddiq does.

Advised by doctors to have her second child by caesarean section today (January 15), she has opted to push the procedure back two days because she does not trust Theresa May’s government to act honourably.

Who can blame her for that?

Of course the decision has sparked a row, with other Labour MPs saying a proxy voting system should be introduced, making the now-discredited “pairing” convention unnecessary:

For members of the public, it seems to have become a matter of honour that every MP should turn up and vote.

https://twitter.com/LeeHow14/status/1084914541811642368

Here’s my preferred reason for that democratic fervour:

One thing is sure, no matter what the outcome of the vote (and I think we all know what it is going to be):

The Conservative Party will go into it in disgrace, and can only expect to come out of it in worse condition.

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Tory chief whip and chair should both resign after breaking ‘pairing’ arrangement to win crunch vote

Tory chief whip Julian Smith, who demanded that Brandon Lewis break a ‘pairing’ agreement, and Jo Swinson, whose agreement was broken.

This is a betrayal of democracy.

Pairing is a longstanding convention in the House of Commons, where the whips of the government and an opposition party agree to allow MPs from one side to miss a vote because of personal reasons or official business. The other party agrees to hold back one of their MPs from voting so the two absences cancel each other out.

I was under the impression that such arrangements were treated as sacred; Parliamentary democracy is meaningless without them.

So I doubt the truth of the Tory statement that they have been broken 66 times in the current Parliament – 52 times by opposition parties. It’s easy to say but where is the proof?

Meanwhile we have clear evidence that the Tories have been abusing voting rules left, right and centre – for example, forcing Naz Shah to be wheeled through the lobby in a wheelchair while she was ill, because they refused to allow her vote to be counted otherwise.

The incident demonstrates the contempt Conservatives have for democracy.

They will go to any lengths to push their policies through, and if it means betraying the principle on which the Mother of Parliaments is built, that means nothing to them.

The Conservatives have been forced to admit that their chief whip asked MPs to breach Commons voting conventions in knife-edge Brexit votes on Tuesday, as opposition parties demanded he quit and queried the accuracy of the prime minister’s account of events.

Party sources conceded on Thursday night that Julian Smith had asked several Tory MPs to break pairing arrangements but most had refused to do so. The only one who did obey the instruction was paired to a Liberal Democrat MP who was on maternity leave.

They admitted that Smith had wanted some MPs to break “short-term” pairing arrangements, where a Tory is asked to skip a vote because an opposition member is unable to attend for good reason, but had made an error in asking the party chairman, Brandon Lewis, to vote because he was paired with Jo Swinson – who only recently gave birth.

Smith was under intense pressure to see off a Tory rebel amendment on Tuesday’s trade bill, which called for the UK to remain in a customs union with the EU if a free trade deal could not be negotiated quickly. The Conservatives narrowly won by six votes.

Labour called for Smith and Lewis to resign, and accused Theresa May of giving the Commons a misleading account of events when she said at prime minister’s questions on Wednesday that Lewis’s vote “was done in error”.

Source: Jo Swinson pairing row: Conservatives admit chief whip asked MPs to break arrangements | Politics | The Guardian

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Will the Tories be embarrassed by the Affordable Housing Bill?

The National Housing Federation ran a campaign against the 'bedroom tax' while the legislation was going through Parliament - but the government was blind to the concerns of this expert organisation.

The National Housing Federation ran a campaign against the ‘bedroom tax’ while the legislation was going through Parliament – but the government was blind to the concerns of this expert organisation.

Tomorrow (Friday) the Labour Party will do something it hasn’t done in a fair few years – support a Parliamentary Bill put forward by a Liberal Democrat!

Andrew George’s Affordable Housing Bill seeks to soften the effects of the Bedroom Tax by exempting households in which disabled people have had adaptations made to the building, and in which any person in receipt of Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment (but notably not Employment and Support Allowance) is not able to share a bedroom with a partner, meaning that all bedrooms are occupied, if only by the claimant and their partner.

It would also force the Work and Pensions Secretary to review the number of affordable homes and intermediate housing available, assessing the need for such dwellings, progress made in meeting this need and the potential to do so, the role of registered providers and community land trusts, and whether he should act to meet any need revealed by the review.

This could doubly harm the Conservatives as David Cameron went on record during Prime Minister’s Questions many times as the Bedroom Tax passed into law, to say that it would not affect the disabled. Clearly his statements were false; clearly he was lying to Parliament.

It is also public knowledge that the Conservatives were well aware of the lack of appropriate housing for people to downsize into, once the Bedroom Tax came into effect and they were forced to pay for rooms the government now considers to be under-occupied. The plan was never to get people to move into more appropriate accommodation; it was always to force people – who had been allocated housing on the basis of what was available at the time – into a benefit cut created by conditions that were not of their making.

Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Rachel Reeves, writing on LabourList, stated that Labour will support Mr George’s Bill. “Though most MPs will have commitments in their constituencies, I and other Labour MPs will be present in the House of Commons chamber to support the Bill so that it has the best chance of progressing through to its next stage,” she wrote.

It is to be hoped that any absent MPs will have ‘paired’ with opposing MPs, in order to ensure that no side has an unfair advantage when the matter comes to the vote; it is bad enough that the government scheduled the Bill’s second reading for a Friday, when most MPs have constituency duties.

Labour has lately come under fire from certain individuals – including readers of this blog – who are living under the delusion that Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition has supported the Coalition government with regard to the Bedroom Tax. Let’s put that to rest with a few more words from the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary:

“Labour has been clear and consistent in its opposition to the Bedroom Tax.

“We said it was cruel and unfair, taking an average £700 a year from half a million low income households. The government has admitted that two thirds of those hit have disabilities, and another 60,000 are carers. All the evidence from housing and disability experts showed that most would have nowhere else to move to.

“We also said it was unworkable and could end up costing more than it saved, with people unable to keep up with their rent, destabilising the finances of housing providers and risking costly eviction proceedings, or ending up with private landlords where rents and housing benefit bills are higher.

“Our fears were confirmed by the government’s own independent evaluation of the policy slipped out over the summer. This revealed that just 4.5% of affected claimants had been able to move to smaller accommodation within the social sector, that 60% had fallen behind with their rent after just six months, and that there was “widespread concern that those who were paying were making cuts to other household essentials or incurring other debts”.

“These are the reasons why Labour MPs forced a vote in the House of Commons for its abolition in November last year. It is why we supported a Bill to abolish the tax put forward by Ian Lavery MP in February this year. And it is why Ed Miliband has committed the next Labour government to repealing it if we win the general election next year.

“We in the Labour Party will take any opportunity to protect as many people as we can from this unjust and ill-conceived policy.

“But the only sure way to get the Bedroom Tax fully repealed will be to elect a Labour government next May.”

The Affordable Housing Bill is scheduled to be the first discussed in the September 5, 2014 session, and it should be possible to watch the debate at http://www.parliament.uk or the BBC’s Democracy Live site from 9.30am onwards.

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