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MP says vote pairing break was a "genuine mistake"

PUBLISHED: 17:31 20 July 2018

Peter Aldous. PICTURE: parliamentlive.tv

Peter Aldous. PICTURE: parliamentlive.tv

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An MP has said he believes a colleague's failure to abstain from a key Brexit vote on Tuesday was a "genuine mistake."

It comes after Great Yarmouth MP and Conservative Party chairman, Brandon Lewis, broke a pairing arrangement with Liberal Democrat MP and new mother, Jo Swinson.

Pairing is an agreement between parties whereby if an MP is not available, another from a party voting the other way will abstain to cancel it out.

Mr Lewis voted on two crucial decisions on the government’s trade bill on Tuesday night, helping the government win the tight vote 307 votes to 301.

Pressure has been building on both Mr Lewis and Conservative chief whip Julian Smith, who have both apologised to Ms Swinson.

Peter Aldous, Conservative MP for Waveney, did not call on Mr Lewis or Mr Smith to resign over the scandal and said it was time to rebuild bridges.

He said: “Pairing is an arrangement that has been around for I suspect centuries and it has worked very well and it shouldn’t be undermined.

“From the feedback that I have received this was a genuine mistake in the heat of what was a very hot moment. The chief whip has apologised and I hope we can move on and build bridges to get confidence back in the system.”

He added: “It was a genuine mistake, I am of a mind that I am supportive and I believe what the chief whip has said and therefore I take his word and we can move on from here and rebuild bridges.

“I think proxy voting, which is something that the leader of the house is promoting, those sort of arrangements to bring voting in parliament into the 21st century are things that we do need to look at.

“I know Brandon Lewis, I don’t believe it was deliberate at all.”

Mr Aldous was speaking at a groundbreaking event for the first major construction project for the East Anglia ONE offshore wind farm.

Prime minister Theresa May, on a visit to the Irish border, told the Press Association: “An honest mistake was made here and both the chief whip and Brandon Lewis have apologised to Jo Swinson.”

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