The much anticipated Recall Bill is currently making its way through Parliament.
I strongly support voters having the power of recall over MPs who let them down. MPs should face the music if they have abused their position or neglected their basic duties. I am very pleased the Government has introduced legislation, particularly since the Lib Dem Manifesto in the run up to the last General Election outlined our intention to make sure MPs could be recalled by their voters for ‘serious misconduct’.
Last week, the Bill passed its Second Reading, and on Monday this week, it had its first day of debate in Committee. I listened carefully to the discussion on both occasions. At the end of the debate on Monday, I voted against one of forty nine separate amendments which had been suggested to improve the Bill. There are many amendments still to be discussed, and I am sure many more will be put forward as the Bill is debated in the days to come.
The amendments which have attracted the most publicity are those from Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park, so I have set out my thoughts about these in this letter. If your interest in this Bill related to a different amendment or amendments, then please do not hesitate to let me know and I will write to you separately about your concerns.
Zac’s proposals are quite complex and long-winded. They require firstly a Notice to Recall, signed by 5% of the electorate within the constituency. Following this, 20% of the voters would then have to sign a Recall Petition. Once that threshold was met, a Referendum would be held on whether or not the MP should be recalled, and a majority of voters would have to vote in favour of doing so to move the process to the next stage. Then, and only then, would a by-election be triggered. These four stages could prove a very long and drawn-out affair, particularly when appeals might be launched at any stage, delaying the process even further.
Another problem with Zac’s proposals is that they actually made it harder for voters to recall an MP if he or she was found guilty of a serious criminal offence. Interestingly, the current system used to sanction MPs actually deals with that eventuality swiftly and summarily, although it falls short in a number of other respects.
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