Two cabinet ministers were among MPs who cast proxy votes while attending a Euro 2020 football game at Wembley rather than in person in the Commons, according to analysis.
They include Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, Policing Minister Kit Malthouse and the government’s Chief Whip Mark Spencer – whose role is to oversee party discipline.
Meanwhile, former international trade secretary Liam Fox voted by proxy on numerous occasions while attending Wimbledon on 5 July, the analysis by POLITICO suggests.
Many MPs were using proxy votes instead of voting in person at the time under measures introduced in parliament in order to avoid crowding in the division lobbies.
The system was introduced in 2020 to allow MPs who had COVID or who were self-isolating to take part in votes being held in the Commons.
It was later expanded for widespread use to reduce the risk of infection.
The revelations have raised fresh questions about the hybrid system which was used in the Commons throughout the pandemic.
Mr Wallace, Mr Malthouse and Mr Spencer were among a dozen MPs – all from the Conservative Party – who attended the England vs Denmark Euro 2020 semi-final at Wembley on 7 July.
The match began at 8pm, just over an hour after a 6:59pm vote in the House of Commons on the EU Settlement Scheme, in which hundreds of MPs used a proxy to cast their votes.
The other Conservative MPs at the England match at this time were Nigel Adams, Scott Benton, Philip Davies, Esther McVey, Laurence Robertson, Mark Jenkinson, Craig Whittaker, Mike Wood and Aaron Bell.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth and shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds were among Labour MPs who voted by proxy in an earlier division and were also in attendance at Wembley that evening.
Mr Ashworth and Mr Reynolds, who attended the game with gifted tickets, did not vote in person for a rejected measure which would have brought forward a public inquiry into the pandemic at 4:15pm.
Fellow Labour MPs Stephen Kinnock, Charlotte Nichols, Sharon Hodgson and Toby Perkins were among other MPs that enjoyed hospitality packages for the semi-final match.
A total of 15 MPs attended the England vs Denmark fixture in hospitality.
Fans who attend a Wembley match as part of a hospitality package can enter the venue up to three hours before kick-off, meaning at 5pm on this occasion – 45 minutes after the first vote was held that afternoon and just under two hours before the second vote.
They also receive free food and drink as part of their experience, at a cost of £3,457 per head.
Eleven of the MPs present at the semi-final match were gifted the experience on behalf of gambling company Entain.
The use of proxy voting in the Commons during the pandemic has come under scrutiny after it was revealed that former attorney general Sir Geoffrey Cox voted 243 times by proxy while abroad.
Sir Geoffrey has been criticised for his lucrative second job as a legal adviser which he often carries out from the Caribbean.
The rules for using a proxy vote at the time stated that “members who do not wish to vote in person for medical or public health reasons related to the pandemic” could do so.
It was taken on good faith that MPs had a valid reason to use a proxy.
The system was discontinued at the end of July 2021 along with other remote participation measures introduced in the House of Commons during the pandemic.
The proxy vote system is currently being reviewed by the Commons Procedure Committee.
Some MPs, including many SNP representatives, have said there should be a system in place for MPs who are unwell to be able to participate in votes in parliament.
Sky News has contacted the government for a comment.
A government official told POLITICO that proxy votes were being used by almost all MPs at the time in order to avoid crowding in the division lobbies. This was a point echoed by three of the MPs contacted by the publication – Mr Davies, Mr Jenkinson and Mr Bell.
A Labour official stressed that the party’s MPs abstained in the later vote that evening and that the first vote was held almost four hours before the match kicked off.
They added that, at this stage of the pandemic, a large majority of MPs were on continuous proxies – with around 550 MPs across all parties being on a proxy on the date in question, 7 July.