Allowing e-voting could undermine parliament, says Jacob Rees-Mogg
Expanding electronic voting could undermine parliament, as ministers could choose not to appear in person, the Commons leader said.
Jacob Rees-Mogg said the “default” position should be for MPs to vote in person, following remote voting experiments during the coronavirus pandemic.
He also said that offering proxy voting powers – which allows an MP to have a colleague vote – to people on maternity and paternity leave was “really simple”, but argued there was complications spreading to those who are too sick to attend. Parliament.
The Cabinet minister said that while he had sympathy for those suffering from long-term illnesses, questions arose as to how proxy voting might work for them, including what would happen if “the member was under anesthesia and therefore unable to give instructions “on how to vote on their behalf.
He also said there was a confidentiality issue, especially if a Member of Parliament did not want to publicize his illness.
Mr Rees-Mogg, testifying before the procedure committee, said: “Running for parliament is not what every minister wants to do at the end of a busy day, but it is fundamental to the power of the government. Parliament that ministers are here regularly – all ministers and all senior officials of our parties.
“Why? Because there are issues you want to raise with them – these are very effective ways of dealing with constituency issues.
“I have seen members of the opposition hanging out in front of the division hall trying to get the Home Secretary – not actually the current one – an important immigration case in his constituency.
“Once the Home Secretary doesn’t have to show up, how often will they be here? And I’m not talking about the current individual, I’m talking generically.
“Or the Leader of the Opposition (Sir Keir Starmer); he is very busy – he would probably like to travel the country and meet with potential voters rather than being in the division lobby, but the workings of parliament are then gradually undermined.
Mr Rees-Mogg said he was concerned that while elected politicians “don’t have the inconvenience of having to be here physically, they don’t necessarily take it so seriously”, citing how he heard some peers vote in abroad at the start. electronic voting in the House of Lords during the pandemic.
The Commons Leader added, “I think the default should be that people should be here to vote in person – I think that’s very important.
“But I do have sympathy for people with serious illness, which I think fall into a category that deserves more sympathy than people who find it slightly embarrassing to be here.”
The chief minister was also questioned on the Owen Paterson saga, repeating his admission to have made a mistake in the way he had handled the affair.
Mr Paterson, a former Environment Secretary, left Parliament last year following a botched attempt by No 10 to bail him out after breaking rules prohibiting MPs from lobbying paid.
Tory MPs were flogged for backing the so-called Leadsom Amendment, which sought to reform the rules of standards to give the former North Shropshire representative a reprieve from his suspension in the Commons.
When asked if the government made the wrong call in supporting the amendment, Mr Rees-Mogg told the committee: “Look, I made it clear that I was wrong.
“I confused this specific case with more general concerns, and that was a mistake. I hope you always learn from your mistakes.
Pressed on whether the government was unlikely to hold such a vote in the future, he replied: “After saying that I hope we learn from our mistakes, I hope we will.
“If the government thought it was the same, I’m sure it would have acted differently with the hindsight we have now.”