Recall petition for convicted MP Chris Davies confirmed

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Chris Davies MPImage source, Yui Mok/PA Wire
Image caption,
Chris Davies was sentenced on Tuesday

A Conservative MP convicted for a false expenses claim will face a recall petition, House of Commons speaker John Bercow has confirmed.

Chris Davies tried to split the cost of photographs between two office budgets by faking invoices, when he could have claimed the amount by other means.

If 10% of eligible voters in the Brecon and Radnorshire constituency sign it, a by-election will be held.

It comes as Mr Davies's local constituency association backed the MP.

Brecon and Radnorshire Tory chairman Peter Weavers said Mr Davies had been caught by an "arcane" law, and said he would be happy to see him run again if a by-election takes place.

But Mr Davies's former office manager Sarah Lewis, who uncovered the claims and reported then to the Conservative Party, said it was shocking the MP thought it acceptable to create false invoices.

Mr Davies was given a community order of 50 hours unpaid work and a £1,500 fine at Southwark Crown Court on Tuesday.

Mr Bercow told MPs he would write to the relevant petition officer to begin the petition process - it will be up to Powys County Council to run the exercise.

The figure needed to trigger a by-election has not yet been confirmed, but it is thought around 5,300 names would be required.

Image caption,
Chris Davies's defence said the MP did not intend to make "personal gain" or act in a "dishonest way"

Sarah Lewis said she was relieved that Mr Davies had not received a custodial sentence.

"I am relieved that my decision has been completely justified and the public can see that I have done the right thing," she said.

"The fact that he thought it acceptable to create false invoices in another person's name shocked us all."

Once called, a recall petition should be available to be signed at up to 10 locations open from Monday to Friday between the hours of 09:00 and 17:00, with "reasonable provision" given for signing at other times.

Mr Davies will be the third MP to face a recall petition.

North Antrim DUP MP Ian Paisley survived such an exercise in September when it failed to get the numbers required.

He had been suspended from Westminster for failing to declare two holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government.

A recall petition process is currently under way in Peterborough against former Labour MP Fiona Onasanya - now sitting as an independent - who was jailed for perverting the course of justice.

Image source, Jonathan Brady/PA
Image caption,
A recall petition is under way in Peterborough against MP Fiona Onasanya

The Liberal Democrats and Labour have both called for Mr Davies to resign.

But the MP was defended by his constituency chairman Peter Weavers, who said the Brecon and Radnorshire consistency association "was 100% supportive of Chris".

"He's immediately accepted that he's made an error," said. "He's been caught by a piece of law which is arcane."

"I think the nature of the sentence, the modest sentence, reflects the nature of the case."

He added: "We've had dozens and dozens of calls and comments commending him for what he has done over the four years that he's been an MP.

"We want good MPs that fight for Brecon and Radnorshire - I would be urging him to stay on the ballot."