The huge publicity given to recent parliamentary votes on Brexit has put the over-crowded division lobbies of the House of Commons in the spotlight as never before and prompted the introduction of proxy voting on a trial basis. While MPs now vote in two division lobbies, this has only been the case since 1836, as Dr. Kathryn Rix, Assistant Editor of our House of Commons, 1832-1945 project, explains.
On 22 February 1836 an historic vote took place in the House
of Commons, when the second reading of the London and Brighton Railway Bill was
defeated by 281 votes to 75. What made this division so significant was not the
legislation involved, but the manner in which the vote took place. As the Commons Journal recorded, ‘The House
divided: The Yeas to the old Lobby; The Noes to the new Lobby’. That new…
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