In a report published today (Thursday 28 June), the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee calls on the Government to abandon its plans to introduce a power of recall for MPs and to use the parliamentary time this would free up to better effect.
The Government published a draft Bill on the Recall of MPs, with the aim of restoring faith in the political process after the expenses scandal. But the Committee fears that the restricted form of recall proposed could reduce public confidence in politics by creating expectations that are not fulfilled.
The Committee notes that under the Government’s proposals, constituents themselves would not be able to initiate a recall petition. It also comments that the circumstances that the Government proposes would trigger a recall petition—if an MP received a custodial sentence of 12 months or less, or if the House of Commons resolved that there should be a recall petition following a case of serious wrongdoing—are so narrow that recall petitions would seldom, if ever, take place.
The Committee believes that the new House of Commons Committee on Standards, which will include lay members, already has the sanctions it needs to deal with MPs who are guilty of misconduct, including recommending the ultimate sanction of expulsion from the House of Commons in cases of serious wrongdoing. The Committee argues that the option of expulsion must be actively considered and that the House must be prepared to act.
The Committee recognises that the Government may be unwilling to discard a pledge made in the Coalition Agreement and so makes some specific recommendations for improving the recall process if the Government decides to proceed with its proposals. The Committee recommends:
- that the Government replace the requirement for a single designated location for signing the recall petition with a requirement for multiple locations
- that people with an existing postal vote should automatically be sent a postal signature sheet in the event of a recall petition
- that constituents in Northern Ireland should have the same options for signing a recall petition as constituents elsewhere in the UK, rather than being restricted to signing by post
Graham Allen MP, Chair of the Committee, said:
"It is vital that there is public confidence in the political process. But the restricted form of recall proposed by the Government risks creating the illusion that people will have a say in recalling their elected representative while ensuring that this will probably never happen in practice. There is a real danger that this could alienate people still further."
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