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 6:00 pm on 27th October 2014.

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Photo of David Heath David Heath Liberal Democrat, Somerton and Frome 6:00 pm, 27th October 2014

The hon. Lady nods her head.

I am pleased that our commitment is finally being honoured. In government, I was frustrated at the time it took to get something before the House, and I think it is an open secret that I would have preferred it to have gone slightly further than the Bill before us, but nevertheless it is exactly in line with what those parties said they wanted and what they put to the people. I hope, therefore, that we can get away from this false dichotomy between a real recall Bill and a bogus recall Bill. This is not a bogus recall Bill, but it is one that could be strengthened, and that is exactly what we should be focusing on.

I think we might need to look at the constitution of the Standards Committee. As a former member of the old Standards and Privileges Committee, I think there is scope for changing the membership of the Standards Committee, although I would make one caveat about the voting rights of members. That point was covered in a Green Paper on privilege that I produced as Minister but which I do not think anybody read, apart from—possibly—the hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife. Either way, it was obviously minority reading, given that so many people since have commented from a position of sublime ignorance on the subject of privilege. Nevertheless, there are issues to consider and in principle I agree that we should reform the Committee.

We should not kid ourselves, however, that any Committee of the House will have the confidence of many members of the public. That is why I want a mechanism that provides the public with direct access to this process and which is not mediated by a custodial sentence or the decision of a Committee of the House. I am sorry but there is no way such a Committee could be seen as anything other than an old boys’ club. I winced slightly when I heard my constituency neighbour, Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is not in his place, refer to the capacity of the House to expel Members. This is not a gentlemen’s club. Can we please get away from the Victorian idea that we make the rules and deal with things? Our electorate has a right to be engaged in this process.