UK Gov could shut ‘loophole’ preventing recall of MP facing suspension for sexual misconduct
The UK Government could shut a “loophole” that is preventing the recall of an MP who is facing a suspension for sexual misconduct.
Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, will make a statement after Rob Roberts, who represents Delyn, was found to have breached Parliament’s sexual misconduct policy by the Independent Expert Panel, which has recommended a six week suspension.
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, don’t automatically trigger one.
Labour MP Chris Bryant, who is Chair of the Commons Committee on Standards, told BBC Wales that was “manifestly unfair”.
According to the UK Government, it will look at “whether any changes could be made” to the process “in future”.
A UK Government spokesperson said: “A case of this severity highlights the need to look again at whether the process is striking the right balance between protecting the confidentiality of complainants and ensuring consistency with other types of conduct cases.
“The central aim of the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme is to help improve the working culture of Parliament and it will need to continue to evolve and improve over time.
“The Leader of the House will invite the relevant bodies to consider whether any changes could be made in future to the process to enable recall to be triggered.”
‘Call for an election’
The UK Government’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Radio 4’s Today prgramme this morning: “This has gone through a new independent process and doesn’t have the same rules about the so called recall process, which is where constituents can essentially call for an election.
“Although it’s a decision for the House of Commons, I do rather agree that this loophole needs to be closed.
“I’m aware the Leader of the House will be saying more about the lack of recall provision.
“I don’t think there is any place for this kind of behaviour in the House or indeed in society. I think that’s very straight forward. I really praise the individual who came forward quite bravely on this as well.
“I think they should not have the exemption from recall just because it’s gone through this new and newly independent process and as I say I know the Leader of the House intends to come forward and say more about it.”
Labour MP Chris Bryant told the same programme: “In most lines of work, this kind of behaviour would lead to being sacked… if I were Mr Roberts I wouldn’t want to be exploiting a loophole in this way to stay in Parliament.”
Rhondda MP Chris Bryant told BBC Wales: “I think it would be entirely dishonourable for a member to exploit that loophole and I think the government has to close it as a matter of urgency,” he said.
“You would think that Parliament would want to have exactly the same set of rules for any kind of suspension from the House of Commons but, in particular, you would think that the sanctions against somebody for bullying and sexual harassment would be tougher even that for failing to register a gift, or something like that.
“But it looks as if we’ve got this all the wrong way around.”