Disgraced MP Rob Roberts defends ‘loophole’ preventing recall petition
A disgraced MP has defended a “loophole” which has prevented a recall petition in his constituency that could have led to a byelection.
Rob Roberts, who was suspended from Parliament for six weeks for sexual misconduct, insisted that “the system specifically having been designed to operate as it did”.
If an MP is suspended for 10 sitting days or more by Parliament’s Standards Committee this triggers a recall petition. This can lead to a by-election if it gains enough signatures.
However, sanctions imposed by the Independent Expert Panel, who judge more serious sexual harassment and bullying cases against MPs, did not automatically trigger one.
The system which enabled Roberts to escape facing a recall petition was criticised by Labour MP Lucy Powell on the BBC Question Time programme last night.
She said: “MPs, its pretty hard to sack us, but I tell you what, when you’re in Boris Johnson’s party, you’re completely unbackable.
“You can be found guilty of sexual harassment as one of his MPs is, and he’ll tell his MPs to go through the voting lobbies to vote for a loophole to stop you facing a recall petition in Parliament.”
Roberts was asked by member of the public Sylvia Jones if he has watched Question Time.
‘How horrendously embarrassing’
In a post on social media, the MP for Delyn replied: “I did indeed see it! How horrendously embarrassing it was for Labour that their two representatives on the panel had no answers to any issues that matter in people’s lives, but turned every argument to ‘that’s all well and good, but Boris Johnson did xxx’.
“And yes, for the avoidance of doubt, I know exactly why you asked the question and have ignored it accordingly. You have proved my point succinctly.”
He added: “I’ve had my investigation and had my several punishments.
“Perhaps you might like to reflect on the comments I’ve made above as you’ve now…
“Come to a post about improving the way we do public political discourse from weeks ago just to have a passive go at me personally.
“Ignored my words and subsequently had a more direct go, referencing a “Tory loophole” which was in fact not Tory made and not a loophole, with the system specifically having been designed to operate as it did.
“Ask me to reflect yet show no interest in doing the same. It’s so sad. There is no need to do politics this way.”
Sylvia Jones replied: “I thought Labour hit the nail on the head and the audience seemed to be behind them. I was talking specifically about the reference to you and the Tory loophole which means you are still our MP. I think you must have been watching a different QT?”
Roberts was suspended from the Tory party for 12 weeks in August after a report by Parliament’s Independent Expert Panel found he had “made repeated and unwanted sexual advances” towards a member of his staff and had made “inappropriate comments of a sexual nature”.
He has since been allowed to resume his membership of the party. But he has not been handed back the Conservative whip, and still sits in the House of Commons as an independent MP.
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