Representation of the People (Candidate’s Disclosure)

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 17 March 2015.

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Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

Photo of Jimmy Hood Jimmy Hood Labour, Lanark and Hamilton East 12:34, 17 March 2015

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision for the disclosure of convictions and sentences etc. by candidates for election to specified public roles;
and for connected purposes.

The purpose of my Bill is to impose a legal requirement on a candidate for any of the roles mentioned in subsection (2), which reads:

“Application of Section 2 shall apply to candidates standing for election to the role of…member of the House of Commons…hereditary member of the House of Lords…member of the Scottish Parliament…member of the National Assembly for Wales…member of the Northern Ireland Assembly…member of the European Parliament for a UK constituency…member of the Greater London Assembly… elected mayor, including Mayor of London…district, borough, county, county borough or unitary authority councillor…parish or community councillor…Police and Crime Commissioner”.

The current position is set out in the House of Commons Library standard note of 16 April 2014 as follows:

“An individual who is convicted of a recordable offence will have a ‘nominal record’ of that conviction placed on the Police National Computer. Nominal records will also be created for individuals who are cautioned, reprimanded, warned or arrested for such offences. An individual’s nominal record is retained until his 100th birthday.”

The police national database is used to record details of “soft” police intelligence—for example, details of criminal investigations that do not lead to a conviction. The intention will generally be to retain this information for a minimum of six years, and longer if it relates to allegations of a serious offence or if the individual concerned is considered to pose an ongoing risk.

When a person applies for a so-called “excepted position”, he or she may be required to provide details of their record by way of a standard or enhanced criminal records check from the Disclosure and Barring Service, formerly the Criminal Records Bureau. Excepted positions cover, for example, work with children or vulnerable adults and roles in certain licensed occupations or positions of trust such as police officers and solicitors. It is my contention that elected representatives of the people as listed in subsection (2) fall within the category applicable to police officers, teachers, doctors, nurses, voluntary youth workers and so forth, and should therefore be added to the professions requiring disclosure statements.

The reputation of politics in general, and of some of its elected representatives in particular, has been tarnished in recent times. We have in no small measure a collective responsibility to do what we can to restore the reputation of Parliament and all our public institutions. If a school teacher, a school bus driver, a police officer, a doctor, a nurse, a community volunteer and many thousands of other public service professionals are required to have disclosure statements as a prerequisite to their being able to pursue their profession, why not MPs, councillors, MSPs, London Assembly members and so forth?

It was a school teacher from Lanark grammar school in my constituency who, during a meeting in my office at a prearranged visit with three of her students asked me, “Do MPs need to have disclosure statements?”, to which I felt sheepish in saying no. I am presenting the Bill today thanks to that teacher’s inquiry, and I look forward to the day when my answer will be, “Of course.”

On the eve of a general election, thousands of candidates are ready for the off following the Dissolution of Parliament next week. In truth, although all political parties have their own procedures for vetting their prospective candidates, they rarely, if ever, have information about a candidate’s criminal antecedence. That is surely an impediment to our doing right by the people we represent.

Child protection must and always will be at the heart of everything that we do in the House of Commons. Legislators must subject themselves to the same scrutiny, and the same laws that we pass, that apply to members of our electorate. I am sure that those taking part in Justice Lowell Goddard’s inquiry into historical child abuse will want to identify any potential weaknesses in child protection legislation with a view to scrutinising political institutions in connection with all aspects of child protection.

In the light of all that has gone before, my Bill is an attempt to bring the political elite under greater scrutiny, and to reassure the public that the laws that we pass for them apply to all their elected representatives. I commend it to the House.

Question put and agreed to.


That Mr Jim Hood, Mr Brian H. Donohoe, Mr Dennis Skinner, Jim Sheridan, Mr Tom Clarke, Pamela Nash, Sir Alan Meale, Mr Frank Roy, Mr Ian Davidson, John Robertson, Ian Lavery and Mr Russell Brown present the Bill.

Mr Jim Hood accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 27 March and to be printed (Bill 189).