UK Politics

Government publishes MP Recall Bill

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New laws to allow voters to "recall" their MP and force a by-election have been published by the government.

Under the plan, an MP could be recalled if they are convicted of an offence and get a sentence of 12 months or less.

An MP could also be recalled if House of Commons authorities suspend them for at least 21 sitting days.

If one of these conditions is met, and 10% of voters in the MP's constituency sign a recall petition, the seat will become vacant and a by-election held.

Currently, MPs are disqualified from Parliament only if they are jailed for more than 12 months.

The recalled MP will be able to contest the subsequent by-election, under the government's plans.

'Vested interests'

In a written statement to Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: "The bill puts in place a recall mechanism for MPs which is transparent, robust and fair.

"It strikes a fair balance between holding to account those who do not maintain certain standards of conduct, while giving MPs the freedom to do their job and make difficult decisions where necessary."

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan says Labour supports the recall of MPs.

"However, we don't want a system of recall that is solely in the hands of MPs as this will struggle to have the public's confidence," he said in a statement.

"Nor do we want a system that could give vested interests power to kick out MPs simply because they dislike the way a politician has voted on controversial issues.

"We will therefore be looking closely at the government's bill to see whether it satisfies our major areas of concern and addresses the serious issues raised by recent controversies."

'Clegg fudge'

A rival plan has been introduced to Parliament by the Conservative backbencher Zac Goldsmith, which does not require an MP to be proven to have broken any rules.

Under his private member's bill, an MP could be recalled if 5% of voters in a constituency sign a "notice of intent to recall" and 20% of voters then sign a "recall petition".

The Richmond Park and North Kingston MP, writing on his Twitter feed, said his proposed legislation was "a genuine Recall Bill", which had been signed off by a committee of 22 MPs, from seven parties, and was "ready to be used to amend the Clegg fudge".

Mr Goldsmith has said the government's proposed legislation is "virtually meaningless" because it would too difficult, in practice, for voters to recall errant MPs.

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