Members of the Lords, including several former MPs and a constitutional historian, debated the main purpose and key principles of the Recall of MPs Bill, in the House of Lords on Wednesday 17 December.
Government spokesperson, Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Conservative), introduced the bill as one which fulfilled a coalition commitment to deliver a recall mechanism to hold MPs to account where they have been found guilty of wrongdoing.
Members of the Lords broadly welcomed the bill, but highlighted a number of concerns, including the length of time taken to produce the legislation and whether sufficient safeguards will be in place to ensure the recall mechanism cannot be manipulated. Practical issues, including costs, were also discussed.
The bill now moves to committee stage, the chance for line by line scrutiny, in the Lords. A date is yet to be scheduled.
Recall of MPs Bill summary
The bill provides for a recall petition to be triggered if a member is sentenced to a prison term or is suspended from the House for at least 21 sitting days. If either occurred, the Speaker would give notice to a petition officer, who in turn would give notice to parliamentary electors in the constituency.
A petition would then be open for signing for eight weeks. If at the end of that period at least 10 per cent of eligible electors had signed the petition, the seat would be declared vacant and a by-election would follow. The member who was recalled could stand in the by-election.
The bill also introduces rules on the conduct of the recall petition, including campaign spending limits for those supporting and opposing recalling the member.