Last Thursday as part of the Parliamentary Procedure Committee there was a discussion involving a number of MPs that was coordinated by Karen Bradley who is the Conservative MP of Staffordshire Moorlands and is the Chair of that Committee. One of the Committee members is Lloyd Russell-Moyle who is the MP for Brighton Kemptown. His question was a very significant call for a more open explanation of what MPs do when it comes to voting. Sadly the response from Karen was very inadequate and we clearly need to be able to know why MPs don’t vote. The response of people having to read tweets etc is not adequate and indeed in the case of many MPs, they block certain people from reading their text even if they bother to explain why they are not voting which many do not appear to do so. Indeed Karen Bradley does not have a twitter account. Here is the full debate and below is the question and lacking answer from Karen Bradley:
Lloyd Russell-Moyle: I welcome any progress in modernising this House, and the report is very welcome. I personally believe that we should be more open to the public about our pairing arrangements, which would help with some of this. It is not acceptable for constituents to have to rely on reading Twitter to know whether, in a vote, their MP had just abstained or was paired. I am unusual in that once I abstained by walking through both the Aye and No Lobbies, because I wanted my constituents to know that I was abstaining and not just being paired.
I do welcome the step forward, but part of the problem relates not just to the issue of privacy, but to the fact that some MPs on short-term sick want a recorded system, to be able to show that they are either paired or they are proxied. That is still the gap, and I wondered whether the Committee would consider that.
Karen Bradley: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments. As Chair of the Procedure Committee, I should make the point that positive abstentions are not really the done thing in this place, but I do understand why he felt the need to do so.
We did look at the issue around the informal arrangements and whether they could be more formalised, but we must accept that there will always be informal arrangements in a place that involves 650 of us who are, effectively, sole traders. It is up to each individual Member to decide how they let their constituents know about their votes. We have great transparency around voting, as lists are published, which simply was not the case previously. There is nothing to stop any Member from being clear about their view on whether they abstain positively, or whether it was a pairing arrangement.