Pairing and proxy voting

20.87A system known as ‘pairing’ enables a Member to be absent, and to agree with another Member to be absent at the same time. By this mutual agreement, a vote is neutralised on each side of a question, and the actual size of the majority is not affected. The practice of pairing is not officially recognised in the procedures of the House; it is therefore conducted privately by individual Members, or arranged by the Whips of the respective parties. The Speaker has ruled that agreements to pair are private arrangements between Members and in no sense matters in which either the Chair or the House can intervene.1

In January 2019, the House agreed to a one-year trial system allowing voting by a nominated proxy for a specified limited period for Members absent by reason of childbirth or care of an infant or newly adopted child, under the terms of a temporary standing order and a Scheme signed by the Speaker and agreed by the leaders of the three largest parties in the House.2


  1. 1. HC Deb (1953–54) 552, cc 1750–52; ibid (1975–76) 912, c 769; ibid (1996–97) 287, c 775. See also ibid (18 July 2018) 645, c 430 and ibid (23 July 2018) 645, cc 738–51, for urgent questions arising from an incident relating to the pairing system. See also para 4.9.
  2. 2. Votes and Proceedings, 28 January 2019; and Procedure Committee, Fifth Report of Session 2017–19, Proxy voting and parental absence, HC 825; see also HC Deb (13 September 2018) 646, c 914 ff. The first such vote was cast on 29 January 2019 – see HC Deb (29 January 2019) 653, cc 757–61.