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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Tory MPs cast proxy votes while on corporate jolly at Royal Ascot

Two Conservative MPs used proxy voting rules introduced because of Covid to vote while they were at a horse racing event, it has emerged.

Philip Davies and Esther McVey cast their votes against two Labour motions “by proxy” as they attended the first day of Royal Ascot on June 15.

The MPs, who are married, received tickets and corporate hospitality worth a combined £1,500 from Normandie Stud, a racehorse breeding complex in West Sussex.

Seven races took place between 2.30pm and 6.10pm during the first day of the Ascot meeting, while the two Commons votes were held at 4.05pm and 6.52pm, respectively.

The motions, which were rejected by the Commons, were both tabled by Labour MPs. One motion focused on catch-up school funding, while the second called for tougher hotel quarantine and red list travel measures.

Proxy voting under the spotlight

The use of proxy voting, which is limited to new mothers or fathers and allows one MP to vote on behalf of another, was temporarily expanded during the pandemic to avoid overcrowding in the Commons.

According to official rules published last year, the online system was intended for “members who do not wish to vote in person for medical or public health reasons related to the pandemic”.

While the vast majority of MPs used proxy voting during the pandemic, its widespread use was abolished by revised guidance in July this year.

Mr Davies, the MP for Shipley, had regularly voted against lockdown measures and branded coronavirus restrictions a “failed strategy”.

He married Ms McVey, a former work and pensions secretary who is currently the MP for Tatton, in September 2020.

Earlier this month, The Telegraph revealed that Sir Geoffrey Cox, who faced criticism for earning more than £1 million last year for his work outside of Parliament, voted by proxy on more than 200 occasions between June 2020 and June 2021.

A dozen Conservative MPs also cast votes in the House of Commons by proxy in July as they watched England’s Euro 2020 semi-final match against Denmark at Wembley.

Ms McVey and Mr Davies were contacted for comment.

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