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Standards commissioner considers sanctioning rule-breaking MPs through pensions

26 Jul 2023 3 minute read
The House of Commons Picture by UK Parliament (CC BY 3.0).

Sanctioning MPs through their pensions if they break the rules and then quit is an idea that should be considered, the Commons’ standards commissioner has suggested.

Daniel Greenberg said increasing the level of sanctions for MPs who walk away is “something we should be considering carefully”.

But he said the issue would need to be looked at “very carefully” and should not be something to “leap at as an instant answer” or in response to a specific case.

It was put to Mr Greenberg on Times Radio that MPs, including former prime minister Boris Johnson, have in the past decided to quit the Commons rather than accept the punishment MPs may choose to impose for breaches of the rules.

Mr Johnson had his access to a parliamentary pass stripped by MPs after he was found to have misled the Commons and disparaged the committee tasked with investigating him.

He would have faced a 90-day suspension from the Commons had he not resigned his seat.

Mr Greenberg said he would not comment on individual cases but was asked if punishments for MPs who do choose to quit should go further than removing their passes – and if sanctioning them through their pensions should be looked at.

He said: “I think that’s a really complicated issue. I think it’s something that one would need to look at very, very carefully.

“I do think perhaps I can try to be helpful and say I do think these are conversations and discussions we should be having.

“But not in a knee-jerk way, certainly not in a sort of instant reaction to a particular case that hits the headlines.

“It’s something we should be considering carefully.”

Instant answer

He added: “There are a number of bodies that are going to think about all of these issues. What you’ve mentioned is something we should think about, certainly not something to sort of leap at as an instant answer.”

Mr Greenwood was asked again about MPs quitting after being found to have broken the rules – and if, in such cases, looking at the package of support given to them should be considered.

He said: “I’m not going to say yes or no to withdrawal of support of that kind because, as I say, I think it’s complicated.

“Do I think it’s something that should be looked at in the round? Yes, as part of the landscape review of self-regulation by the House.”

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards also told Times Radio whether alcohol is sold on the parliamentary estate or not should be “kept under review” and it is “a matter for the House to decide for itself”.

But he added: “Have there been problems, behaviour problems, that have been linked to alcohol? Of course there have. And therefore it is something that, again, requires to be kept under review. And individual MPs obviously will decide what works for them.”

Elsewhere in the interview, he said it would be “unbelievably dangerous” if people stop engaging with the political process because of a lack of trust in politicians.

“The lack of trust is really dangerous and it’s really undeserved,” he said, adding that the “vast majority” of MPs are committed to high standards while also noting that was not true for every case.

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