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David TC Davies urges Vaughan Gething to introduce MS recall system

31 Mar 2024 7 minute read
Vaughan Gething (L) and David TC Davies( Photo Richard-Townshend-CC-BY-3.0.

Martin Shipton

Welsh Secretary David TC Davies has written to First Minister Vaughan Gething offering to help him introduce a recall system for Senedd Members who fall short of the standards expected.

While Westminster MPs have been subject to recall since 2015, the arrangement does not apply to Members of the Scottish Parliament, the Senedd or the Northern Ireland Assembly.

On March 5, Labour and Plaid Cymru MSs defeated a Conservative amendment to the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill, which would have seen a recall system brought in.

Now Mr Davies has suggested to Mr Gething that they should meet with a view to taking the idea forward.

Debate

In his letter, Mr Davies said: “There has been considerable debate following the Welsh Government’s decision to vote down a proposal to introduce a recall mechanism for Members of the Senedd.

“For almost a decade the Recall of MPs Act has been in place at Westminster, setting out the procedure for recalling elected representatives in the House of Commons in the event that a Member is sanctioned under the conditions set out under the terms of the Act. I am seriously concerned that, at present, such a mechanism does not exist for Members of the Senedd; and I am sure you will agree that everyone in the Senedd must always adhere to the highest standards.

“Therefore, I am writing in my capacity as the Secretary of State for Wales to offer the UK Government’s assistance in helping to introduce a recall mechanism for Members of the Senedd. I believe the Senedd would have much to learn from the UK parliamentary experience, so suggest we meet to discuss my offer, as well as delve into how the procedures in the UK Parliament operate.”

Mr Davies copied in the Llywydd (Presiding Officer) Elin Jones.

Rhys ab Owen

Recently South Wales Central MS Rhys ab Owen was suspended from the Senedd for six weeks after the Standards Committee concluded he had groped a woman in a taxi. Plaid Cymru MP Ben Lake said it was wrong that Mr ab Owen did not have to face a recall petition.

When the Tory amendment was debated in the Senedd, both Labour and Plaid Cymru MPs said they agreed in principle with the idea of recall, but believed there was a need to examine the matter in detail before making a decision. The Senedd’s Standards Committee is expected to undertake a piece of work on recalling Members and on Members’ accountability more generally, reporting before the end of the current Senedd term in 2026.

One issue is that under the current Senedd reform proposals, there would be no by-elections, with all MSs elected by a “closed list” electoral system. Casual vacancies would be filled by the next person on the relevant party list.

Even if a recall mechanism were introduced at the Senedd, the ban on by-elections would likely be seen as a way of depriving voters from expressing their anger at their former MS or the party they represented.

Currently, Westminster MPs can be recalled in three circumstances:

* Conviction in the UK of any offence and the imposition of a custodial sentence. (A sentence of more than 12 months in jail automatically disqualifies someone from being an MP anyway);

* Suspension from the House following a report and a recommended sanction from the Committee on Standards for a specified period (at least 10 sitting days, or at least 14 days if sitting days are not specified);

* Convicted of an offence under section 10 of the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 – making false or misleading Parliamentary allowances claims. The sentence does not have to be custodial for this condition.

Conditions

If one of the conditions is met the Speaker of the House must notify the local returning officer and a petition will be open for six weeks. For a recall petition to be successful, 10% of eligible registered voters need to sign it. If the 10% threshold is reached, a by-election takes place. The recalled MP may stand as a candidate. If the 10% threshold is not reached, the recall fails and the MP retains their seat.

So far there have been six recall petitions:

* The first was triggered in July 2018 after the House of Commons agreed to suspend Ian Paisley, the DUP MP for North Antrim, for 30 Parliamentary “sitting days” from September 4 2018. The petition did not attract the required number of signatures to recall Mr Paisley, so he remained an MP.
* The second recall was triggered in March 2019. Fiona Onasanya, the Labour MP for Peterborough, was sentenced to three months in prison on conviction for perverting the course of justice in December 2018. She appealed but the appeal failed on March 5 2019. The recall was successful with over 25% of registered voters signing the petition. Ms Onasanya did not contest the subsequent by-election.

* In March 2019 Chris Davies, the Conservative MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, pleaded guilty to two offences under section 10 of the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009. A recall petition was initiated after sentencing had taken place, on April 24 2019. The recall was successful, with 19% of electors signing the petition. Mr Davies was selected as the Conservative candidate for the subsequent by-election, which he lost to Liberal Democrat Jane Dodds.

* In October 2020, the MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West , Margaret Ferrier, referred herself to the Commissioner for Standards for a breach of Covid-19 regulations in 2020. In March 2023, the Standards Committee recommended that she be suspended from the House for 30 days. The House of Commons approved the suspension on June 6 2023. A recall petition started in June 2023. The result was announced on August 1 2023 and 14.7% of registered voters had signed the petition. The by-election for the seat was held on October 5 2023. Margaret Ferrier decided not to stand. The seat was won by the Labour Party.

* On October 16 the Independent Expert Panel (IEP) published a report on Peter Bone MP, the Conservative MP for Wellingborough. A complaint was made about Mr Bone under Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme. Following an investigation by an independent investigator, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards upheld five allegations of bullying and one of sexual misconduct. Mr Bone appealed unsuccessfully. denying the incidents took place and criticising the investigation.

The IEP recommended Mr Bone should be suspended for six weeks. The House approved the suspension on October 25 2023. The recall petition was open from Wednesday November 8 to Tuesday December 19 2023. The number of electors needed to sign for the petition to be successful was 7,940. The petition was successful with 10,505 people signing. A by-election was held on February 15 2024 and was won by the Labour Party.

* On December 14 2023 the House of Commons Committee on Standards published a report on Scott Benton, the Conservative MP for Blackpool South. The report arose from an investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards after Mr Benton referred himself following articles published by The Times in connection with a “sting” operation in which comments by Mr Benton had been covertly recorded.

The Committee agreed with the conclusion of the Commissioner that Mr Benton had breached the House’s Code of Conduct. It was recommended that the House suspend Mr Benton from its service for 35 days. Mr Benton’s appeal was unsuccessful. The House of Commons approved the motion on the recommended suspension on February 27. The petition opened on March 12 2024. However, it was terminated early as Mr Benton resigned his seat on March 25 2024. A by-election will be held in due course.

Other MPs have decided to resign their seat rather than face a Standards investigation and / or a recall petition, most notably Boris Johnson.


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Jeff
Jeff
19 days ago

Parliament is hardly the standard for Mr Davies to trumpet. It is a dinosaur in politics in this day and age. Heck, the Cons protected Johnson until he was too much of a stinking pile to protect, they tried to protect Patterson and Pincher was a known quantity. (this is before we get to VIP lanes for PPE) the recall petitions may have not met the numbers to recall. Politicos guilty should get the sack. Short shrift, you cannot have law makers left in post, Wales should put something in place that is better than Parliament, take parliament as an… Read more »

Cymro
Cymro
19 days ago

He just can’t get past the idea that he’s some sort of governor general for the English empire presiding over the Welsh colony.

This is an issue for the Senedd, it is nothing at all to do with the UK Government.

The idea that this UK Government could teach anyone anything about standards or decency is insulting.

Gareth
Gareth
19 days ago

He and his party are quick to jump on our Senedd with his ” holier than thou” attitude, but when Plaid propose a law in Westminster to stop ministers telling lies in parliament, it is thrown out, without even a consideration, as soon as it is mentioned. Sort your own house Mr Davies, and let us take care of ours.

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
19 days ago

Davies keep your nose out of our country

karl
karl
19 days ago

As much as I agree with a recall system in principle, it has not cleaned up Westminster. In fact the standards have got even worse. The front end of better selection, vetting candidates etc, thats the better place to start

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
19 days ago

Irony from Welsh Secretary David TC Davies. He forgets sex pest Rob Roberts due to a loophole means this pervert is still an MP even though he pressurised his male & female staff for sex.

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
19 days ago

One of the biggest problems with this kind of thing, be it westminster or Cardiff (also Edinburgh and Belfast) is that for many circumstances it is the prime/first minister that gets to decide when ministerial code is broken.

Paul ap Gareth
Paul ap Gareth
19 days ago

The recall petition used by Westminster would not function in the Senedd with the PR voting system. Therefore, you would need to create a different system to do the same thing. Westminster. If suspended from the commons, then a recall petition is opened. If 10% sign petition then that person is ejected from the commons and election is called. The suspended person can then run and try to regain their seat (meaning the petition could be overturned if voters wanted) This would not work in Senedd as if a member is ejected then the next person on the candidate list… Read more »

Tony
Tony
14 days ago
Reply to  Paul ap Gareth

In Wales, an AM elected on a party list should not be allowed to change parties or become independent.

Nobby Tart
Nobby Tart
18 days ago

How nice of TC to offer his help.

At the end of the year, this offer can be reciprocated.
Vaughn can help TC with filling in his unemployment benefit forms.

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