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

Business of the House (24, 25 and 26 March) – in the House of Commons at 2:50 pm on 24th March 2015.

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Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means), First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Lords amendments 2 to 17, 21, 22 and 27.

Photo of Sam Gyimah Sam Gyimah The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

The amendments in this group relate to the circumstances that would trigger a recall petition. They were tabled by the Government in the House of Lords to ensure that the important changes made to the Bill in this House are reflected throughout the Bill, ensuring that the legislation works in practice. The Prime Minister made it clear that the Government would be open to Parliament changing and improving this Bill, and that has happened. We had a free vote on amendments brought forward on Report, and I am pleased that the provisions have been strengthened as a result.

Honourable Members may recall that on Report in this House, Members voted to add to the provisions in the Bill to trigger a recall petition following a conviction for expenses-related offences under section 10 of the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009, irrespective of sentence. The House also changed the second trigger so that a recall petition would be opened if an MP were suspended on the recommendation of the Standards Committee for 10 or more sitting days, rather than the 21 or more sitting days in the original Bill. As only the lead amendments were moved at that time, the Government tabled amendments in the House of Lords—amendments 1 to 6, 8, 9, 12 to 15, 17, 21 and 22—which are required to give full effect to the changes.

Amendment 7 gives effect to an amendment agreed in this House to ensure that offences committed before the Act comes into force can trigger the opening of a recall petition so long as the conviction and sentencing take place after the Act comes into force. Amendments 10 and 11 further define the allowable appeal period in the case of a conviction that would trigger the opening of a recall petition under the first or third recall condition. That ensures that an MP has the opportunity to appeal against a conviction, but that the recall petition process can also begin in a timely manner. Amendment 27 is a technical amendment, clarifying the definition of “overturned on appeal”. Amendment 16 corrects a minor oversight, by removing the requirement for the courts to inform the Speaker of a sentence that would lead to recall if the person in question had already ceased to be an MP—in such circumstances, it is clearly no longer necessary for the Speaker to be informed.

The amendments in this group are therefore largely consequential and technical, and give proper effect to changes that were made with considerable support in this House. I look forward to the debate on these amendments, which I commend to the House.

Photo of Stephen Twigg Stephen Twigg Shadow Minister (Justice) (Political and Constitutional Reform)

We welcome and support these Lords amendments. On Report, it was a Labour amendment that added a third recall condition of conviction for an offence under section 10 of the 2009 Act, so we particularly welcome these amendments from the other place. As the Minister said, they are minor and technical amendments, but they ensure the Bill will work by making this third recall condition fully operational.

The group also contains helpful amendments concerning the second recall condition. For example, when an MP is suspended from the House, the report of the Committee on Standards which precedes the House of Commons’ order for a suspension must relate specifically to that MP, not to general behaviour. As the Minister said, the House of Lords has also tidied up certain elements of the Bill. Amendment 7 ensures that a recall petition can be brought for offences committed before the day on which the Act comes into force, so long as the conviction and sentencing took place after that date.

Amendment 10 ensures that the third recall condition—on conviction for an offence and sentencing—would begin once all relevant appeals had been determined. That is a sensible but important provision. Other amendments make welcome technical changes to tidy up the proposed legislation. Amendments 23 to 25 would remove the power of the Speaker to appoint a person to exercise the Speaker’s functions under the Bill in his or her absence, and instead allow the elected Chairman of Ways and Means or Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means to do so if the Speaker is unable to perform them. As the Minister explained, these are technical and consequential amendments, and the Opposition are happy to give them our support.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Liberal Democrat, Somerton and Frome

I rise to support the amendments, such as they are, from the House of Lords. They clearly strengthen the Bill in a minor way. Members may recall that we expended a fair amount of time and effort trying to strengthen the Bill in a more concrete way when it was before this House by giving access to a non-parliamentary route for recall. I am sad that we did not find a solution acceptable to both Houses to enable that to happen. Having said that, I do not agree with the argument that it would be better not to have a Bill at all. This Bill is a substantial step forward. It does not go as far as I would like, but I recognise that if we have it in place and it receives Royal Assent, as I assume it will, there is a substrate on which we can build—not me, but successor Parliaments—in order to provide a more acceptable position for the future.

As Stephen Twigg mentioned an amendment in the next group, I hope you will afford me the latitude of saying, Madam Deputy Speaker, that amendments 23 to 25 were ones that I tabled originally in this House. I am very pleased to see that the Government have accepted them in the Lords, so I will not need to say anything about them when we get to the next group.

Photo of Sam Gyimah Sam Gyimah The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

With the leave of the House, Madam Deputy Speaker, let me say, as I said in my opening remarks, that these amendments are sensible modifications, ensuring that the Bill works effectively. I hope the House will support them, I am grateful for the Opposition spokesman’s comments on them and I commend them to the House.

Lords amendment 1 agreed to.

Lords amendments 2 to 17 agreed to.