Fringe Box



Letter: There Was No Way For Me To Formally Abstain In Same Sex Marriage Vote

Published on: 24 Feb, 2013
Updated on: 24 Feb, 2013

Milton AbstainsFrom Anne Milton MP

Following the vote on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, I have received a number of letters and emails about voting in the House of Commons and whether there is a way of formally abstaining. In other words, is it possible for the public to know whether an MP was present in the House of Commons and decided not to vote (as I did on this Bill), or did not vote because he or she was absent?

In fact, surprising though it might seem, there is no way of registering a formal abstention. On occasions, MPs wanting to do this have been known to vote both ways (i.e. vote in both the ‘aye’ lobby and the ‘no’ lobby, which strangely is possible), however this practice is frowned on.

The Speaker commented as recently as 7 February this year, in response to a question from an MP that:
“The Chair has deprecated intentionally voting in both Lobbies – that is, other than cancelling out inadvertently incorrect votes, as he [the MP] mentioned.

“We have no formal procedure for registering abstention in this House, and I would not wish us to have an informal system that would not be understood by those outside this House, and which might well mean that Members who abstain from voting are unfairly criticised for being absent.

“So I continue to deprecate the practice, but if there is pressure to examine a formal alternative, that would be a matter, as the hon. Gentleman rightly said, for the Procedure Committee.”

Share This Post

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *