Covid: Midlothian MP Owen Thompson calls for return of proxy voting at Commons

Midlothian SNP MP Owen Thompson is calling for the return of proxy voting at Westminster after he contracted Covid and had to self-isolate.

By Ian Swanson
Thursday, 4th November 2021, 4:45 pm

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During the peak of the pandemic, rules were changed to allow MPs who were unable to travel to Westminster to arrange for colleagues to vote on their behalf.

The Commons also introduced remote voting and a hybrid system for taking part in debates. But all the special measures were scrapped after the summer recess and MPs are now expected to be present in the chamber.

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Owen Thompson has tested positive for Covid

But with the pandemic far from over, Mr Thompson said MPs who cannot attend the House in person for legitimate health reasons should still be able to vote by proxy.

He is having to miss votes for ten days because he is self-isolating with Covid.

He said: "It is deeply frustrating that I have not been able to register my vote in the budget debates this week.

"I tested positive for Covid-19 and cannot physically be present for ten days while I self-isolate. Surely this does not mean I should be cut off from having a say in decisions with a massive impact for the people of Midlothian?

"We know the capability is there for both online and proxy voting at Westminster, it worked well during the pandemic. Covid has not gone away, but common sense seems to have abandoned this place. The old-fashioned Tory dinosaurs are never too keen to move parliamentary procedures out of the dark ages.”

He said it was “absurd” that MPs with legitimate health reasons to stay away from parliament were being prevented from registering their votes.

"This affects people with other health issues too, like my colleague Amy Callaghan who is recovering from a stroke,” he said.

"Ultimately this is not disenfranchising MPs, it is disenfranchising the people we represent. I look forward to the procedure committee considering this issue further, although have been frustrated that my isolation has also impacted in my ability to participate in that process.

"By refusing to enable proxy voting for health reasons, Westminster is proving yet again it's a broken system that is determined to reduce democratic participation, not widen it. It is letting down the people it is supposed to represent. It's time for a change."

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