Speaker changes voting rules after influx of 'Mc' surnames causes delays

John Bercow

The Commons Speaker, John Bercow, has authorised a trial of changes to the voting system in parliament in response to complaints that an influx of MPs with surnames starting with Mc are creating long queues in the lobbies.

In July the MP for Kettering, Philip Hollobone, said the arrival of 25 MPs with surnames beginning with Mc – many of whom were among the 50 new Scottish National party MPs joining the Commons after the general election – were contributing to delays in the time it took to vote.

MPs vote by passing into either the aye or no lobby in the House of Commons and having their names recorded by clerks on alphabetical lists.

In the trial, which begins on Monday, the alphabetical groupings for divisions will be changed to A-G, H-M and N-Z. According to the announcement, the change is “intended to address the issue raised by several members of long queues forming at the G-M desk”.

The trial will run for two weeks between 7 and 17 September and will then be reviewed to establish whether the new arrangement has improved the situation.

Speaking in parliament shortly after the general election, Hollobone asked the leader of the Commons, Chris Grayling: “Do you share my concern that the business of the House is being unnecessarily delayed by divisions taking an unnecessarily long time? It would seem to me the primary cause of this is the unequal length of the alphabetical queues in the voting lobbies.

“A quick analysis shows there are 199 members in the N-Z queue and 236 in the G-M queue. Given you are a G and the chief whip [Mark Harper] is an H, will you ensure that by the time we come back in September [after the summer break], these queue lengths have been equalised?

“The quickest and easiest way to do this would be to consign the 25 members of this House whose surname begins with Mc to the outer darkness of the N-Z queue.”

On the day that the government presented its English votes for English laws plans (known as Evel) to parliament, prompting accusations from the SNP that it was trying to turn Scottish MPs into “second-class citizens”, Grayling replied with caution.

“I will simply say I very much value my Scottish colleagues in this union parliament and I would not wish to consign them to any outer darkness,” he said. “But I have every sympathy with the point you make, it is something I do intend to ask officials to look at when the [House of Commons] commission starts meeting.

“There is no doubt, as a G who stands in the queue whilst the other queues disappear, I have a lot of sympathy with what you say,” he added.

John Bercow, responded that Hollobone was “a most legendary anorak”.

Proposals to introduce a system of electronic voting in parliament have been considered over the years but have never garnered much support. MPs argue that the procedure of voting in person encourages them to attend debates and lobby senior colleagues.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Frances Perraudin, for theguardian.com on Monday 7th September 2015 14.13 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010