Jo Swinson accuses Conservatives whips of ‘cheating’ vote after pairing agreement broken to avoid narrow Brexit defeat
Conservatives whips break 'pairing' agreement in narrow victory on Trade Bill
Jo Swinson MP - PA
Jo Swinson has accused the UK Government of breaking a longstanding Westminster tradition in order to win crucial votes over Brexit.
The Lib Dem deputy leader is on maternity leave and therefore ‘paired’ with a Conservative for key votes, meaning they will not vote to provide balance.
However, facing defeat over Brexit amendments, Conservative whips called on her paired MP Tory chairman Brandon Lewis to vote with the government.
The Government won the vote on the Trade Bill by 307 to 301.
East Dunbartonshire MP Swinson was at home with her new baby son.
“Don't try any nonsense about a mistake,” she tweeted. “This is calculated, deliberate breaking of trust by government whip Julian Smith to win at all costs. Brandon abstained in afternoon divisions, but voted in the two crunch votes after 6pm. There's a word for it - cheating.”
Smith replied it had been “a mistake” and Lewis also took to twitter to apologise.
“I’m sorry Jo. I think it was an honest mistake made by the whips in fast-moving circumstances. I know how important the pair is to everyone, especially new parents, and I apologise. Also apologies for late reply, been speaking at an event,” he said.
Swinson said the issue of proxy votes for MPs on maternity leave needed to be addressed.
“54,000 women lose their jobs each year in the UK due to pregnancy & maternity discrimination. Despite claims to want to fight "burning injustices", govt response to this problem has been shockingly poor, so perhaps it should be no surprise they treat MPs on mat leave like this,” she said.
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