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Recall of MPs Bill needs radical rethink, Law Society says

20 October 2014 | tagged News release

Proposals to give members of the public the right to raise a petition to remove their local MP under certain circumstances need a radical rethink, the Law Society of Scotland said today, October 20.

The Society believes that amending existing legislation would achieve the same aims proposed by the Recall of MPs Bill and would be a more constitutionally appropriate way of removing an MP from office.  

Michael Clancy, the Society’s director of law reform said: “MPs should be expected to conduct themselves according to the highest personal standards, and criminal behaviour resulting in imprisonment falls short of that.  Under these circumstances the most appropriate way to deal with this would be to amend the Representation of the People Act 1981 to include the provision for disqualifying MPs who have received a prison sentence of less than one year.  It is our view that is best way to achieve the Government’s policy.  

“Suspension of an MP from the House of Commons means exactly that. Suspension is a penalty imposed by the Speaker and should not open the door to a potential by-election.” 

The Bill also sets out that 10% of eligible constituents must sign the recall petition for it to be considered successful.  

Mr Clancy said: “The numbers of registered voters in each of the 650 UK constituencies varies widely, with urban areas as a rule having a much higher number.  In effect, this means that it could be potentially easier to oust MPs in rural areas, as it would be much easier to attain 10% of the electorate to sign the petition.  This provision needs more thought in order to ensure fairness between MPs and their constituents.” 

The bill sets out a process that allows for constituents to raise a recall petition against their MP if they are convicted of a criminal offence for which they have received a prison sentence of less than 12 months, or have been suspended from the House of Commons for a period of at least 21 days.  A successful recall petition would trigger a by-election.   

ENDS 

Note to Editors 

The Recall of MPs Bill will have its second reading in the House of Commons on 21 October.  The Society's 2nd Reading Briefing can be found on the Society’s website 

For more information journalists can contact Louise Docherty on 0131 476 8204 

Email:  louisedocherty@lawscot.org.uk

 

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