HC Deb 24 November 1977 vol 939 cc1752-3
Mr. Speaker

Yesterday the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) raised with me a question et order about Members voting in both Lobbies during the same Division. I have been giving further thought to the matters that were raised both by the hon. Member for Pentlands and by the hon. Member for Paddington (Mr. Latham). The hon. Member for Paddington indicated to me that he had deliberately gone into both Lobbies to show that he was "positively abstaining."

There is a time-honoured custom in this House that when Members wish to abstain from voting, they do so by absenting themselves from the Division Lobby. If the Member uses both Lobbies, the only interpretation is that far from abstaining, he is positively voting for both sides.

The hon. Member for Pentlands seemed to be asking me for a ruling yesterday. My ruling is that if the name of any hon. Member is recorded in Hansard as having participated in a Division, he has certainly not abstained. That would be an obvious contradiction in terms. I hope that hon. Members will not persist in going into both the "Aye" Lobby and the "No" Lobby. as this will make a nonsense of our procedures.

All of us who are Members of this House are transient trustees of the dignity of the House. If the House wishes by resolution to alter its procedure so as to provide for a record of abstentions, so be it. But, failing this, I look to all right hon. and hon. Members to support me in maintaining respect for our traditional system of voting in this House

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would it be in agreement with your understanding of the traditions of the House that if a Member, having voted, realises that he has voted in a way which he did not intend, it is consistent with the traditions of the House and entirely desirable that he should then vote in the other Lobby rather than rising on a spurious point of order to explain that he did not intend to vote in the way that he did vote?

Mr. Speaker

I was trying to deal with a new situation which has arisen. The old custom where an hon. Member realises that he has made a mistake is, of course, available to hon. Members.

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