The FVVRA Blog Abstension

I will not abstain?

Under the present parliamentary voting system, there are many physical reasons why an MP may not be available to vote in a parliamentary division i.e., constituency business, parliamentary business outside parliament, the MP is sick unable to attend parliament, a bereavement, parliamentary business overseas and many other possible reasons, none of these constitute an abstention, because if you are not in parliament, you cannot vote.

You can “abstain,” if you are in parliament and available to vote at division, but do not do so.

In parliamentary life of an MP, to abstain from voting at division vaguely expresses a dissenting view of some sort, but nobody knows the reason for the dissent and no vote is recorded. 

The MP in question may have any of a number of reasons for not voting i.e., conflict of interest, the bill still has serious flaws, the bill is not worthy of support, Faith based conflict, "The government's bill is rushed and in my view there are a number of reasonable concerns that need to be dealt with... we shouldn't just wave this through."

Yes but  No but ------ MPS who vote both ways
Ed  Lowther  Political Reporter BBC News

In addition we have the growing problem where the party executive instructs MPs to “abstain,” (not to vote) on a bill or legislation, causing major division in their own parties.

Labour, “Pressed MPs to abstain on welfare vote.”                                                                                                                      

These and other problems can arise for an MP on recurring bases, and when they do, they have very few tools available to help deal with them. In some cases, MPs resort to the extreme measure of going through both division lobbies (Aye and No) in order to ensure that their dissent is noted but of course, not recorded as a vote.

If an MP is pledged not to abstain, party leaders cannot in good conscience, instruct them to abstain.

As long as MPs continue to conform to historic precedence and continue to use the blunt instrument of abstention to deal with their dissent and conflicts of conscience. They will continue to be powerless to express and record the true nature of their dissatisfaction with the content of a bill or legislation.

Members who have signed the FVVRA Pledge will no longer have the abstention option available to them, and could make a reasonable request of the “Speaker,” to allow a procedure whereby the reasonable cause of the MP being unable to vote is recorded and considered.

 We must remember that under the present system, the “Speaker” believes that ‘All votes are free votes’, and all MPs abstaining, ‘simply--did--not—vote’.