Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis faces calls to resign

PUBLISHED: 11:30 19 July 2018 | UPDATED: 19:12 19 July 2018

Brandon Lewis is under pressure over claims he broke a pairing arrangement 
Photo: PA / David Mirzoeff

Brandon Lewis is under pressure over claims he broke a pairing arrangement Photo: PA / David Mirzoeff

PA Archive/PA Images

Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis is under fresh pressure over claims he deliberately broke parliamentary voting rules.

Mr Lewis came under fire when he broke a pairing arrangement with new mother Lib Dem Jo Swinson on a knife-edge Brexit vote on Tuesday night.

Pairing is an agreement between parties when one has an MP that is not able to vote so another sits out the division to provide balance.

Both Tory Chief Whip Julian Smith and party chairman Mr Lewis apologised and said he had been “asked to vote in error”. Mr Lewis added it had been an “honest mistake” in fast-moving circumstances.

Today the Times claims he and two other Tory MPs were told by Mr Smith that they should go ahead and vote despite being paired. The paper claims the two unnamed MPs both sought further advice and ignored the instruction.

Labour has demanded the resignations of the two senior Tories if they fail to give a full explanation over the whipping operation.

Mr Lewis did not vote in the initial divisions on Tuesday but then took part in two crunch Commons votes helping Theresa May narrowly avoid a damaging defeat on Brexit trade plans.

During Prime Minister’s questions, Mrs May told MPs: “The breaking of the pair was done in error. It wasn’t good enough and will not be repeated.”

Labour said the Chief Whip and the party chairman should quit if they could not account for what happened.

Conservative MP Heidi Allen also raised concerns about the claims.

She said: “I sincerely hope this isn’t true. No matter how tough the going gets, principle, integrity and standards matter. Without those, what’s left?”

Shadow equalities secretary Dawn Butler said: “If these reports are correct, the Tory whips, Brandon Lewis and even the prime minister have been telling untruths about their shocking move against an MP on maternity leave.

“Breaking a pairing arrangement was a desperate move by a collapsing government and makes politics even more inaccessible for women.

“We need a full, honest explanation of what’s gone on. If they can’t do so, surely the Chief Whip and Conservative Party chair should resign.”

Mr Lewis has been contacted to provide a comment.

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