Valerie responds to Urgent Question

As Shadow Leader of the House, I responded to the following urgent question asked on 18 July 2018: ‘to ask the Leader of the House if she will make a statement on arrangements for Members on maternity, paternity or adoption leave and proxy voting’.

Below is my speech in full:

I thank the Leader of the House for her response and congratulate the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) on his urgent question on this important issue. I thank you, too, Mr Speaker, for granting it.

Last night’s events do not reflect well on this House; I am sure the whole House agrees. It is time that we ensure that this is a modern workplace with modern employment practices. The Leader of the House and I had both decided on 5 July that we would not give closing speeches so that we could debate proxy voting, but she has said that she wants the debate in September. Could she arrange for the debate to take place next week, as we have just a general debate? There is time to discuss that.

Last night shows why the Government must urgently introduce proxy voting for those on baby leave. The Prime Minister’s answer earlier to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) was simply not good enough. Consultation by this Government is always code for delay and obfuscation. Members of the Procedure Committee have taken evidence from you, Mr Speaker, and from all of us, and they have produced a report that we could debate immediately. I know that the Leader of the House wants urgently to find a way forward. Does she agree that proxy voting for those on baby leave could be introduced today without the need for debate through public agreement by all parties to nod through those on baby leave for every Division? We could ensure that those voting by such means were denoted by a “P”, or, to make it really up to date—and I hope Hansard have this—a baby emoji, giving full transparency to the public. Will she agree to meet me today to discuss this?

It is vital that we are a modern workplace and that those on baby leave can have their vote recorded and take part in our proceedings as they want to and as they are elected to.