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MPs arrested for sex offences face being excluded from Parliament

13 May 2024 5 minute read
Image PA, Parliament TV

MPs face being barred from attending Parliament if they are arrested for serious sexual or violent offences after the Commons voted to reverse moves to water down the measures.

The House of Commons Commission initially proposed that a risk assessment would take place on whether an MP should be prevented from attending the parliamentary estate if they were arrested on suspicion of committing a violent or sexual offence.

The proposal was later revised so the threshold for a ban was at the point of charge.

But MPs voted 170 to 169, majority one, in favour of a proposal from Liberal Democrat Wendy Chamberlain (North East Fife) to revert to the threshold being an arrest.

The division list showed eight Conservative MPs voted in favour of the amendment, including former prime minister Theresa May, while Natalie Elphicke – who defected to Labour from the Tories last week – also supported it.

MPs have previously only been prevented from attending the parliamentary estate by voluntary arrangements with their own party whips under such circumstances.

Safeguarding

Ms Chamberlain said: “It is not about the guilt or innocence of any individual MP, but about safeguarding. It’s really important that Parliament is just as safe as any other workplace and that everyone is held to account by similar rules.”

Labour former minister Sir Chris Bryant told the PA news agency: “I’m delighted. This is long overdue.

“Parliament should be no different from any other workplace.”

Mike Clancy, general secretary of the Prospect trade union, said: “This is an important and overdue victory for common-sense and those working on the parliamentary estate.

“We have campaigned tirelessly for any MPs arrested for sexual or violent offences to be excluded from the estate at the point of arrest. These proposals must now be implemented as soon as possible.”

FDA general secretary Dave Penman described the result as a “significant victory” for the union’s members, staff and visitors on the parliamentary estate, adding: “Parliament is a workplace for thousands and these new formal procedures give staff the safe working environment they deserve and would expect in any other workplace.”

Raped

Labour’s Jess Phillips (Birmingham Yardley), who also pressed the case for exclusion at the point of arrest, wrote on X: “Shit! We won the vote by one.”

She had earlier told the Commons debate: “Today, just on this one day, I have spoken to two women who were raped by members of this Parliament; that’s a fairly standard day for me.

“I notice these are not the people who have so far been mentioned much today and some of them told me what they wanted me to say.”

Ms Phillips, reading out remarks, said: “Exclusion at the point of charge sends a clear message to victims that not only will we not investigate unless a victim goes to the police but we won’t act unless they’re charged, which happens in less than 1% of cases. ‘So what’s the point?’ was essentially what this victim said to me.”

She added: “I’m going to stand here and speak up for them because every single one of them wishes for this to be on arrest.”

Ms Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley, later said: “We seem to act like we’re some sort of superior beings and the people who currently get excluded are often young women, and I’ve dealt with cases who are young men, who never work in politics again.”

‘Power grab’

Conservative former minister Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg earlier described the plans for risk-based exclusion of MPs from Parliament as an “extraordinary power grab by standing orders to undermine a fundamental of our constitution”.

He said: “I know Members of Parliament talking about privilege sounds as if they are talking about themselves, but no, it is of our constituents to be represented, and they are not only represented by votes, indeed most of the time they are least represented by votes because they go the way of a Government majority with one more or less not making a ha’p’orth (halfpennyworth) of difference.

“But the real representation is in this very room. It is not even in Westminster Hall or in committee, it is in this great cockpit of debate, and taking away that right by a cabal is against the constitution.”

Sir Jacob said he did not have strong opinions about whether exclusions should be made at the point of arrest or charge, but added: “If we want to do this, let us find time or legislation and let us do it properly.”

Conservative former minister Sir Michael Ellis had also said there were constitutional and legal implications to excluding MPs on arrest.

He said: “There is a key principle here, there’s a golden thread that runs through our system that a person must not suffer imposition before guilt has been proven. And it is offensive against the laws of natural justice, and in fact contrary to human rights to do so.”


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