The public will be given the right to recall their local MP if they are found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing under proposals announced today. The proposals fulfil a commitment made in the Programme for Government as part of the political reform agenda.
In a draft Bill published today, the government is proposing to introduce a power of recall, allowing voters to force a by-election where an MP is found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing and having had a petition calling for a by-election signed by 10% of his or her constituents. At the last general election the manifestos of all 3 main parties included a commitment to establish a recall mechanism.
Mark Harper, Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform said:
This is an important part of the government’s programme of measures designed to help restore trust in our political system. If an MP has been found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing, they should not be able to retain their seat with impunity until the next general election. Our proposals would allow constituents to decide whether or not an MP should retain their seat.
Our intention is to establish a recall mechanism which is transparent, robust and fair. In publishing the draft Bill we are seeking to trigger a debate about how recall could be implemented in the UK.”
The draft Bill is being published for pre-legislative scrutiny and sets out two triggers for a recall petition: firstly where an MP is convicted in the UK of an offence and receives a custodial sentence of 12 months or less, and secondly where the House of Commons resolves, through a vote by MPs, that a recall petition should be opened. The first trigger will close a gap in the existing legislation whereby MPs are only disqualified if they receive a custodial sentence of more than 12 months. The second trigger is an additional disciplinary power for the House of Commons, which for the first time allows constituents to have their say in deciding whether their MP should stay in office.
The petition will be administered by the local returning officer and will be open for a period of 8 weeks. If 10% of eligible constituents sign the petition, the MP’s seat will be vacated and a by-election will be held.
Notes to editors
- The Draft Bill was announced by Mark Harper in a Written Ministerial Statement this morning.
- Political and Constitutional Reform is the overall responsibility of the Deputy Prime Minister. This fulfils a commitment in the Programme for Government, page 27: “We will bring forward early legislation to introduce a power of recall, allowing voters to force a by-election where an MP is found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing and having had a petition calling for a by-election signed by 10% of his or her constituents.”
- The draft Bill is designed to work alongside the House of Commons’ own arrangements for dealing with discipline. These arrangements are a matter for the House, so are not set out in statute. In practice the government expects that the Committee on Standards and Privileges will play an important role in this process. While recommendations concerning the use of disciplinary powers are implemented by a resolution of the House, the government is not aware of a case where the House has failed to implement a recommendation of the Committee on Standards and Privileges in relation to discipline.
- The draft Bill is accompanied by a White Paper which sets out the rationale for the policy and considers alternative models.