New law to allow voters to force out errant MPs

Bill Walker, the former SNP Kirkcaldy MSP who was convicted of domestic abuse. Picture: TSPL
Bill Walker, the former SNP Kirkcaldy MSP who was convicted of domestic abuse. Picture: TSPL
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VOTERS will be able to force any MP to face re-election or stand down if they are found guilty of fiddling their expenses, if an amendment to the government’s recall bill is passed as expected tomorrow.

A deal between Labour and Tory ministers means that the government will not oppose three Labour amendments to its Recall Bill and instead give their own MPs a free vote.

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The first amendment means that any MP convicted of fiddling their expense will face recall whether they receive a custodial sentence or not.

A second means that any MP suspended from the House for 10 or more sitting days will also face recall.

And, in what is being dubbed “the Bill Walker amendment” after the former SNP Kirkcaldy MSP who was convicted of domestic abuse, any MP convicted of a historic crime which happened before they were elected will also be able to be recalled.

The Government had originally set a bar of 20 days or more suspension and restricted crimes to ones which took place after an MP was elected.

Recall means that a petition is set up and voters in a constituency have up to eight weeks to ask for a recall with a threshold of 10 per cent needed for the MP to face re-election.

Labour’s shadow deputy leader of the House Thomas Docherty said: “Ed Miliband has promised to restore public confidence in the political process.

“These amendments will help to clean up our politics as part of that ongoing work.

“Labour believes that there can be no place for those who abuse the public’s trust and we will expect the highest standards from all of our representatives.”

The Tory leadership had been facing a rebellion on its Recall Bill because of claims that it did not go far enough.

A Downing Street spokesman last night confirmed that there will be a free vote on the amendments.

The bill will not apply to Holyrood with all parties signed up allowing MSPs to determine their own recall rules in the further devolution discussions being chaired by Lord Smith of Kelvin.

An SNP spokesman said: “”Recall has to be real, in the hands of the people and open to the people it is meant to serve”

He added: ‘’The Scottish Parliament should have the ability to decide for itself the arrangements for the disqualification of its own members.”

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