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I participated in a debate on proxy voting. The proposal put forward is for this to be permitted for MPs on maternity and paternity leave.

Whilst this is one measure that may help to modernise the working practices in Westminster, if proxy voting is approved it must also be available to MPs who are too ill to travel to London or who are living with an ill loved one such as a spouse or child who may be battling a terrible illness or terminal disease.

It is also important that this measure is not interpreted as diluting maternity or paternity leave for others. It is only 30 years ago since women first won the right to paid maternity leave. We must not allow employers to interpret this measure as a general signal that it is OK to ask other women in the workplace to in any way interrupt their maternity leave. This was too hard won to do anything to suggest it is negotiable in any way. We also know that many new fathers do not always feel comfortable asking for paternity leave. Maternity and paternity leave must be sacrosanct for those across the UK who need this time with their new arrivals. MPs taking such leave and voting by proxy must not be used as an argument or vehicle for any unscrupulous employers to attempt to undermine these rights for workers in our offices, shops and factories across the UK.

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