Clause 1 — How an MP becomes subject to a recall petition process

Part of Bill Presented — International Trade Agreements (Scrutiny) – in the House of Commons at 7:30 pm on 27th October 2014.

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Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark Minister of State (Universities and Science), Minister of State (Cabinet Office) 7:30 pm, 27th October 2014

I always look kindly on any proposals by my hon. Friend. I intend to finish with his amendment, so I will come to it. I completely respect and approve of the sentiment behind it, and I hope my hon. Friend will accept what I say in response to it.

Let me make some progress, because I have spoken as much as other Members have. Labour’s amendment 46 would ensure that a Member of Parliament who was convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for an offence committed before this Bill is enforced would be subject to a recall petition process. It would cover historic offences that, though not committed at the time of the MP’s election, were not known to the electorate at the time.

I have great sympathy for that point. As I said earlier, retrospectivity is extremely rare in this House, but this is an important point about the electorate’s ability to judge a Member’s misconduct. If a Member had committed an offence and the information was not in the public domain, and if they were elected with the electorate being in ignorance of that offence and it subsequently came to light and was the subject of a conviction, I think that that is a circumstance in which it would be reasonable for that Member to be recalled. I will return to the issue and hope the hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife will engage in some discussions with me, which might satisfy Wayne David, who is sitting behind him, to see whether we can more perfectly capture that point in the Bill.

Amendment 47 would mean that a Member of Parliament convicted for any offence under section 10 of the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009—that is, an offence related to MPs’ allowances—would be subject to recall regardless of the sentence imposed. I think the whole House will want to send a clear signal that criminal abuse of the expenses system will lead to judgment before constituents as well as court. The amendment is technically deficient, because the way in which it would be placed in the Bill would rule out the possibility of an appeal, unlike the other criminal triggers. I again offer to work with the hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife to see whether we can agree on a considered reflection of that purpose for Members to consider on Report.

Finally, as far as amendments tabled by Opposition Front Benchers are concerned, amendments 48 and 49 would mean that, if an MP was suspended from their role in another elected capacity, including from their parish council, district council, county council, devolved legislature, city council or the European Parliament—the hon. Gentleman mentioned a hypothetical example that might have caused him to reflect on this matter—they should be able to be subject to recall from this House.

There is certainly a debate to be had about recall for elected offices, as I made clear on Second Reading. This is a limited Bill, but that is not to say that there is not a good case to be made for provisions to be extended elsewhere in due course. Until that debate is concluded, however, it would seem odd that a councillor could be recalled from this place because of a suspension from the council when they could not be recalled from the council itself. It also raises the question of whether a parish council’s standards for suspension, for instance, are an accurate reflection of the practice in this place. Without being churlish to the hon. Gentleman—I had some experience in opposition of drafting amendments—I should like to point out that it is pointless to include a reference to the European Parliament, since one cannot be an MP and an MEP at the same time.