Lib Dem MP anger over Tories breaking voting deal that protects maternity leave

© PALiberal Democrats deputy leader Jo Swinson
Liberal Democrats deputy leader Jo Swinson

A Scots MP on maternity leave has slated the UK Government for breaking an agreement in place to allow her to stay at home with her baby during Brexit votes.

Jo Swinson, who is the Liberal Democrats’ deputy leader, was “paired” with the Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis.

The practice means neither would take part in important votes on the country’s post-Brexit trade strategy on Tuesday night.

However, Mr Lewis took part in two close divisions, one of which had seen Theresa May narrowly avoiding a bruising defeat on the European customs union.

Ms Swinson, the East Dunbartonshire MP, reacted angrily, telling the Prime Minister: “Just how low will your government stoop?”

Accusing the Tories of “cheating”, she said it was a “calculated, deliberate breaking of trust” by the government whips to “win at all costs”.

She was backed up by MPs from other parties.

The Conservative Sarah Wollaston said: “More than just an extension of the other heavy handed tactics on display, it disrespects women and why maternity leave matters.”

Labour’s shadow women and equalities minister Dawn Butler said it was an “absolutely appalling move”.

Chief Whip Julian Smith apologised and said Mr Lewis has been “asked to vote in error”.

Mr Lewis said it was an “honest mistake” made by the whips in “fast-moving circumstances”.

The Tory Government avoided defeat by just six votes over an amendment which could have required the UK to join a customs union after Brexit if a trade deal was not in place by January.