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 4:56 pm on 27th October 2014.

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Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means) 4:56 pm, 27th October 2014

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 42, page 1, line 4, leave out “or second” and insert “, second, or third”

Amendments 42 and 43 and NC6 and NC7 form part of a group of amendments and new clauses which provides a route for recall for members of the public independent of any parliamentary committee, or criminal convictions. It allows for an alternative and additional trigger for the recall process which provides direct access whereby one hundred constituents may petition an Electoral Court in the case of improper behaviour or gross dereliction of duty on the part of an MP, and seeks to avoid any conflict with the provisions of the Bill of Rights.

Amendment 48, page 1, line 4, after “second”, insert “or third.”

Amendment 41, page 1, line 10, at end insert—

‘(2A) No action shall be initiated against an MP in relation to a recall petition process on the basis, or as a result of votes cast, speeches made or any text submitted for tabling by such an MP, within, or as a part of, a parliamentary proceeding.”

Amendment 47, page 1, line 16, at end insert “or,

(c) the MP has been convicted of any offence under section 10 (Offence of providing false or misleading information for allowance claims) of the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009.”

This amendment adds a further recall petition trigger to the Bill, where an MP is found guilty of an offence under section 10 of the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 for making a claim for expenses or allowances that they know to be false or misleading in some material respect.

Amendment 45, page 1, line 18, leave out subsection (4) and insert—

‘(4) The second recall condition is that the House of Commons orders the suspension of the MP from the service of the House for a specified period and—

(a) where the period is expressed as a number of sitting days, the period specified is a period of at least 10 sitting days, or

(b) in any other case, the period specified (however expressed) is a period of at least 14 days.”

This amendment reduces the length of suspension required to trigger a recall petition from 21 sitting days to 10 sitting days and from 28 days to 14 days.

Amendment 39, page 1, line 18, leave out “orders” and insert “has ordered.”

Amendment 43, page 1, line 24, at end insert—

‘( ) The third recall condition is that—

(a) an election court has considered a petition claiming that the MP has committed an act which, had it been committed in England and Wales, would have constituted misconduct in public office, and

(b) the court has determined, prima facie, there is a case to be answered, and

(c) the court has notified the Speaker of its decision under sub-section (b).”

Amendments 42 and 43 and NC6 and NC7 form part of a group of amendments and new clauses which provides a route for recall for members of the public independent of any parliamentary committee, or criminal convictions. It allows for an alternative and additional trigger for the recall process which provides direct access whereby one hundred constituents may petition an Electoral Court in the case of improper behaviour or gross dereliction of duty on the part of an MP, and seeks to avoid any conflict with the provisions of the Bill of Rights.

Amendment 40, page 2, line 2, after “starts”, insert “or started”

Amendment 49, page 2, line 5, at end insert—

‘(5A) The third recall condition is where an MP is also—

(a) a Member of the Scottish Parliament,

(b) a Member of the National Assembly for Wales,

(c) a Member of the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly,

(d) a Member of the London Assembly,

(e) a directly elected Mayor,

(f) a local government Councillor,

(g) a member of a Parish Council, or

(h) a member of the European Parliament and the Speaker receives or otherwise takes notice of the fact that that such an MP has been suspended from a role mentioned in this subsection for a period equivalent to, or greater than, that specified in subsection (4).

(5B) The Secretary of State may amend the list of bodies in subsection 5A by an order laid before the House of Commons and made under the affirmative resolution procedure.”

This amendment adds a further recall petition trigger to the Bill, where an MP has been suspended from another elected role or office for an equivalent or greater number of days than is set out in Clause 1, subsection (4). (NB Amendment 45 seeks to reduce that period.)

Amendment 46, in clause 2, page 2, line 16, leave out paragraph (b)

This amendment removes the exemption from recall petition in the case of an MP who receives a custodial sentence but for a crime committed before this Act comes into force.

Amendment 44, in clause 5, page 4, line 11, leave out “second” and insert “, second, or third”

New clause 1— Notice of intent to recall

‘(1) A notice of intent to recall is to read as follows—

“If you agree that [name], the member of the House of Commons for [constituency] should be subject to a recall petition, please sign below”.

(2) A notice of intent may be deposited with the petition officer by a person who promotes the call for the member to be recalled from Parliament (“the promoter”).

(3) A notice of intent to recall deposited under subsection (2) must be accompanied by a declaration made by the promoter, verifying that to the best of that person‘s knowledge the notice is in accordance with this Act and any regulations made under it.

(4) A person who makes a declaration under subsection (3) where that person knows that the declaration is false or is reckless as to that fact, commits an offence.

(5) As soon as reasonably practicable after a notice of intent to recall has been deposited with the petition officer—

(a) the petition officer shall, in accordance with subsection (6) determine whether the notice of intent to recall is effective, and

(b) if so, the petition officer shall send a copy of the notice to the member.

(6) A notice of intent to recall is effective for the purposes of this Act if the petition officer is satisfied that the number of persons who have validly signed the notice of intent to recall is not less than the effective number determined in accordance with subsection (9).

(7) But subsection (5) shall not apply if it would require the petition officer to determine that the notice of intent to recall is effective at a time—

(a) within the period of 7 months ending with the polling day for the next parliamentary general election;

(b) when the MP is already subject to a recall petition process, or

(c) When the MP’s seat has already been vacated (whether by the MP’s disqualification or death, or otherwise).

(8) For the purposes of this section a person (“P”) validly signs a notice of intent to recall if—

(a) P signs the notice within the period commencing 28 days prior to the date upon which the notice is deposited with the petition officer and ending on that day, and

(b) P signs the notice on a day on which P would be entitled to vote as an elector at a parliamentary election in the constituency.

(9) In each year, the petition officer of each constituency in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland shall on the relevant day, determine the number that is equal to 5% of the number of persons entitled to vote as an elector at a parliamentary election in the constituency (“the effective number”).

(10) “The relevant day” for the purposes of subsection (9) means, the day on which the registration officer publishes a revised version of the electoral register under section 13 of the Representation of the People Act 1983.”.

This New Clause adds in the process for notices of intent to recall; who is eligible to sign such a notice and how the petition officer is to determine whether it is effective, leading on then to a recall petition notice being issued.

New clause 2—Promoter’s statement of reason and Member’s statement in reply

‘(1) A notice of intent to recall may be deposited with a petition officer by a person (“the promoter”):

(a) who promotes the recall from Parliament of the member to whom the notice relates;

(b) who is entitled to vote on the day it is deposited as an elector at a parliamentary election in the constituency to which the notice relates; and

(c) whose name appears on the notice.

(2) The promoter must ensure that the signing sheet for a notice of intent to recall include s a statement of reasons for calling for the member’s recall to Parliament (“The promoter’s statement of reasons”).

(3) The member may respond to the statement of reasons in a written statement in reply (“member’s statement in reply”) sent to the petition officer after the notice of intent to recall has been deposited with that officer.

(4) The notice of petition sent out under section 8(1) must be accompanied by—

(a) the promoter’s statement of reasons, and

(b) any statement in reply if provided to the petition officer within 2 working days of the notices being sent out.

(5) The statement of reason and any statement in reply must not exceed 200 words each and must be made available by the petition officer at the designated places throughout the signing period.”

This amendment makes provision for the person who deposits the notice of intent to recall with the petition officer, known as the promoter, to include with the notice, a statement of reasons. The member then has a right of reply and both the statement of reasons and any statement in reply must be available with a recall petition throughout the signing period.

Amendment (a) to new clause 2, line 11 at end insert—

“(a) the statement of reasons shall not include reasons relating to the Member’s freedom of expression within his/her Parliamentary role such as those expressed through speeches and votes.

(b) Where the petition officer considers that a statement may contravene (a) he may refer the statement to the Speaker whose decision shall be final.”

To ensure that recall procedure is not commenced because a constituent does not agree with the Member’s political or personal views.

New clause 6—The third recall condition; method of petitioning an election court

‘(1) This section applies when persons allege conduct by an MP which constitutes misconduct in public office.

(2) A petition under this section may be presented by one hundred or more of those who are registered as electors in the relevant constituency.

(3) The petition shall be in the prescribed form, state the prescribed matters and be signed by the petitioners, and shall be presented to the High Court, or to the Court of Session, or to the High Court of Northern Ireland, depending on whether the constituency to which it relates is in England and Wales, or Northern Ireland.

(4) The petition shall be presented by delivering it to the prescribed officer or otherwise dealing with it in the prescribed manner; and the prescribed officer shall send a copy of it forthwith to the Speaker and to the relevant MP.

(5) The election court shall be constituted as if it were constituted under section c123 (constitution of election court and place of trial) of the Representation of the People Act 1983 and sections 124 and 126 of that Act shall apply as if it were so constituted.

(6) “Prescribed” has the same meaning as in section 185 (Interpretation of Part III) of the Representation of the People Act 1983.”

New clause 7—The third recall condition; consideration by election court

‘(1) This section applies when a petition alleging conduct by an MP which constitutes misconduct in public office is considered by an election court under section (The third recall condition: method of petitioning an election court).

(2) The court may consider such conduct whether or not it is committed in England and Wales, and whether or not it is committed directly in carrying out the office of member of parliament.

(3) The court must examine evidence adduced of misconduct, and any evidence produced in rebuttal by the MP.

(4) The court must consider whether, on the basis of such evidence, a person might properly be indicted for the common law offence of misconduct in public office.

(5) For the purposes of this section, gross dereliction of duty as an MP may be considered misconduct in public office.

(6) If the court considers, on the basis of such evidence, that the allegation of misconduct is—

(a) not supported by the evidence; or

(b) trivial or vexatious in nature; or

(c) brought for party political purposes; then the court must dismiss the petition.

(7) If the decision of the court is that the alleged behaviour is such as to satisfy subsection (4), then it must notify the Speaker that it has so determined.

(8) Nothing in this section shall be construed as affecting any provision of the Bill of Rights 1689.”

Amendments 42 and 43 and NC6 and NC7 form part of a group of amendments and new clauses which provides a route for recall for members of the public independent of any parliamentary committee, or criminal convictions. It allows for an alternative and additional trigger for the recall process which provides direct access whereby one hundred constituents may petition an Electoral Court in the case of improper behaviour or gross dereliction of duty on the part of an MP, and seeks to avoid any conflict with the provisions of the Bill of Rights.

Amendment 34, in Schedule 1, page 17, line 6, leave out from “effectually” to end of paragraph 1 and insert

“carrying out the functions under this Act and Regulations made under it in relation to notices of intent to recall, recall petitions and recall referendums”

This amendment extends the general duty on the petition officer to reflect the addition of the notice of intent to recall and referendum stages to the Bill.

Amendment 6, in clause 7, page 5, line 22, leave out “receives a Speaker’s notice” and insert

“has determined that a notice of intent to recall is effective”.

This amendment makes clear that the date upon which the petition officer determines that a notice of intent to recall is effective is the relevant starting date for the recall petition process.

Amendment 7, page 5, line 36, leave out “received the Speaker’s notice” and insert

“determined that the notice of intent to recall is effective”.

This amendment makes clear that the date upon which the petition officer determines that a notice of intent to recall is effective is the relevant starting date for the recall petition process.

Amendment 8, in clause 8, page 6, line 13, leave out subsection (2).

This amendment removes the power to make regulations requiring information on the recall condition to be included in the notice of petition to be sent to registered electors.

Amendment 9, in clause 9, page 6, line 27, leave out from “constituency]” to end of subsection (4) and insert

“to be subject to a recall referendum. If the recall referendum leads to the loss of his/her seat this does not prevent the member standing in any consequent by-election.”.

This amendment changes the wording in the recall petition to reflect that if successful there will be a referendum and that if the recall referendum leads to the loss of the member’s seat, he or she may still stand for election in any consequent by-election.

Amendment 10, in clause 10, page 7, line 9, leave out “Speaker’s notice is given” and insert “petition officer has determined that the notice of intent to recall is effective”.

This amendment has the same effect as those for Clause 7.

Amendment 11, page 7, line 22, leave out “Speaker’s notice is given” and insert

“petition officer has determined that the notice of intent to recall is effective”.

This amendment has the same effect as those for Clause 7.

Amendment 35, in Schedule 2,  page 21, line 10, leave out “Speaker‘s notice is given in relation to a recall petition” and insert

“petition officer determines that a notice of intent to recall is effective”.

This amendment has the same intent and achieves the same effect as for the amendments to Clause 7.

Amendment 12, in clause 13, page 8, line 37, leave out “Speaker’s notice is given” and insert

“petition officer has determined that the notice of intent to recall is effective”.

This amendment has the same effect as those for Clause 7 and reflects the fact that the recall conditions and the role of the Speaker are removed.

Amendment 13, page 8, line 44, leave out “Speaker’s notice was given” and insert “petition officer determined that the notice of intent to recall was effective”.

This amendment has the same effect as those for Clause 7 and reflects the fact that the recall conditions and the role of the Speaker are removed.

Amendment 14, page 9, line 3, leave out subsections (4) and (5).

This amendment has the same effect as those for Clause 7 and reflects the fact that the recall conditions and the role of the Speaker are removed.

Amendment 15, page 9, line 9, leave out “receiving a notice under subsection (5)” and insert “becoming aware that this section applies”.

This amendment has the same effect as those for Clause 7 and reflects the fact that the recall conditions and the role of the Speaker are removed.

Amendment 16, in clause 13, page 9, line 16, leave out “receiving a notice under subsection (5)” and insert “becoming aware that this section applies”.

This amendment has the same effect as those for Clause 7 and reflects the fact that the recall conditions and the role of the Speaker are removed.

Amendment 17, page 9, line 22, leave out subsection (8).

This amendment has the same effect as those for Clause 7 and reflects the fact that the recall conditions and the role of the Speaker are removed.

Amendment 18, in clause 14, page 9, line 31, leave out subsection (2)(b).

This amendment reflects that the Speaker’s role in the recall petition process has been removed.

Amendment 20, page 9, line 44, leave out “Speaker’s notice is given” and insert

“the petition officer determined that the notice of intent to recall was effective”.

This amendment has the same effect as those for Clause 7.

Amendment 21, page 10, line 24, leave out subsection (8).

This amendment is consequential on the amendment removing subsection (2) of this Clause.

Amendment 22, in clause 15, page 10, line 27, leave out from “officer” to end of Clause and insert—

“determines that the recall petition was successful the officer shall issue a notice of recall referendum

(2) Where a notice of recall referendum has been issued, the petition officer shall hold a referendum on the question set out in subsection (3), within a period that is no less than 21 days and no more than 27 days after the date of the notice.

(3) The questions that is to appear on the ballot papers in a recall referendum is—

“Should [name of member of Parliament] be recalled from the House of Commons?”.

(4) A person is entitled to vote in a recall referendum under this Act if that person would be entitled to vote on that day as an elector at a parliamentary election in the constituency.

(5) A person who is entitled to vote in a recall referendum may do so in person, by post or by proxy.

(6) This subsection applies where more votes are cast in a recall referendum in relation to a member of Parliament in favour of the question asked in subsection (3) than against.

(7) Where subsection (6) applies, the result of the referendum is that the member’s seat becomes vacant and a by-election will be held.

(8) The petition officer must—

(a) determine the result of the recall referendum as soon as reasonably practicable after the date on which the referendum took place,

(b) immediately notify the member and the Speaker of the result of the referendum, and

(c) as soon as reasonably practicable, publish the result of the referendum.”.

Where a recall petition has been successful, this amendment sets down the requirement for a recall referendum: it provides the wording for the recall referendum ballot and if passed for the member’s seat to become vacant. This thereby triggers a by-election.

Amendment 23, in clause 16, page 10, line 40, after “amend”, insert—

“(a) Schedules 3 to 5 to apply to expenditure and donations in relation to notices of intent to recall and recall referendums and reporting requirements in connection with the financial control of notices of intent to recall and recall referendums.”.

This amendment extends the regulation making power in this Clause to enable the controls on expenses, donations and reporting requirements set out in the Schedules to be extended to notices of intent to recall and recall referendums.

Amendment 36, in Schedule 3, page 24, line 5, leave out “Speaker‘s notice is given” and insert “petition officer determines that a notice of intent to recall is effective”.

This amendment has the same intent and achieves the same effect as for the amendments to Clause 7.

Amendment 24, in clause 17, page 11, line 11, after “petition”, insert “or recall referendum.”.

This amendment extends the controls on loans to accredited campaigners to be extended to recall referendums.

Amendment 25, page 11, line 18, after “petition”, insert “or recall referendum.”.

This amendment extends the controls on loans to accredited campaigners to be extended to recall referendums.

Amendment 26, page 11, line 22, leave out “has the same meaning” and insert “and ‘recall referendum’ have the same meanings.”.

This amendment extends the controls on loans to accredited campaigners to be extended to recall referendums.

Amendment 27, in clause 18, page 11, line 27, leave out “recall petition” and insert

“notice of intent to recall, recall petition or recall referendum.”.

This amendment extends the regulation making powers to cover notices of intent to recall including the promoter’s declaration of compliance and recall referendums.

Amendment 28, page 11, line 28, leave out “recall petition” and insert “notice of intent to recall, recall petition or recall referendum.”.

This amendment extends the regulation making powers to cover notices of intent to recall including the promoter’s declaration of compliance and recall referendums.

Amendment 30, page 11, line 31, at end insert—

(0) make provision extending section 13 to apply to the early termination of a recall referendum process.”.

This amendment extends the regulation making powers to cover notices of intent to recall and recall referendums.

Amendment 29, page 11, line 38, at end insert

“(including extending section 12 to cover the signing of notices of intent to recall, any offence under [section Notice of intent to recall] and voting in recall referendums)”

This amendment extends the regulation making powers to cover notices of intent to recall including the promoter’s declaration of compliance and recall referendums.

Amendment 37, in Schedule 6, page 57, line 35, leave out from “after” to end of line 36 and insert

“a petition officer has determined that a notice of intent to recall is effective”.

This amendment has the same effect as those for Clause 7.

Amendment 32, in clause 22, page 14, line 30, at end insert—

“‘notice of intent to recall’” means a notice calling, in terms determined under section (Notice of intent to recall) for a recall petition to be issued;”.

This amendment adds in necessary definitions to reflect the other amendments to the Bill.

Amendment 33, page 14, line 43, at end insert—

“‘recall referendum’ means a referendum asking, in terms determined under section (Notice of intent to recall) whether the seat of a member should be vacated in accordance with this Act;”.

This amendment adds in necessary definitions to reflect the other amendments to the Bill.

Clause stand part.