UK Politics

MP recall: Commons approves new powers

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Media captionSpeakers in the recall debate included Greg Clark, Zac Goldsmith, Thomas Docherty, Mark Field, and Richard Fuller

The House of Commons has approved plans which could see MPs being "recalled" and subject to a public vote on their future in cases of serious misconduct.

MPs passed a law allowing by-elections to be held in certain circumstances.

They also agreed to reduce the length of time that an MP would have to be suspended from the Commons to trigger a recall process from 21 to 10 days.

Peers will now consider the bill, which has been criticised for giving too much power to politicians.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats pledged to introduce a power of recall in their 2010 coalition agreement but critics have said the government's proposals are a watered-down version of the system used in the US and other countries.

They have warned that responsibility for triggering the recall process will lie with Parliament's Standards Committee, which has a majority of MPs on it, not constituents.

At the moment, MPs who are given a custodial sentence of more than one year have to stand down from Parliament, but those who get a lesser sentence can remain in place.


The bill proposes that a by-election would be triggered if 10% of constituents sign a petition after an MP is found guilty of "serious wrongdoing" by Parliament.

However, efforts to substantially rewrite the bill to give more power to the public were rejected by the Commons last month amid fears it could lead to campaigns by pressure groups and disgruntled constituents unhappy about an MP's stance on divisive issues.

MPs approved the Recall of MPs Bill at third reading, its last Commons stage, on Monday although a number of significant amendments were passed.

Among these, a proposal to reduce the number of sitting days that an MP had to be suspended for before they could be subject to a recall petition has been halved to 10 days after MPs backed the move by 204 votes to 125.

Further powers were also inserted to the bill to trigger a recall process in cases of expenses fraud where an MP was given a non-custodial sentence and in cases where information about historic wrongdoing came to light after an MP was elected.

All three amendments were passed after a free vote in the House of Commons.


Defending the legislation, Cabinet Office minister Sam Gyimah said the coalition had delivered on its manifesto commitment.

"The coalition's programme made a commitment to establish a recall mechanism for MPs who have been found guilty of wrong doing or misconduct," he said,

"The Bill before the House fulfils the coalition commitment to deliver a practical recall mechanism to hold MPs to account when they have done something wrong."

But Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said the legislation was a "sham" which would not enable the public to hold MPs to account while Tory Zac Goldsmith said it was a "disgrace" and accused MPs of not having the "collective proverbials" to reject it.

The bill will now move to the House of Lords for scrutiny although MPs will get another chance to consider any changes made by peers.

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