Plans to recall corrupt MPs welcome but voters must have final say

Jo has welcomed Gordon Brown’s proposal this week to pass a law enabling voters to recall errant MPs, but says it should go further to make MPs accountable to the public, not just Parliament.

At the Labour Party Conference this week, Gordon Brown announced that if re-elected his party would introduce a new law allowing constituents to recall their MP if he or she is proven guilty of wrong doing. The Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for the ‘Right of Recall’ to make MPs more accountable to their constituents. Jo made the suggestion in the House of Commons in February this year, arguing that if enough constituents signed a petition they should be able to remove their MP and call a by-election.

However, Gordon Brown’s speech indicates that constituents would only be able to remove their MP if Parliament failed to punish them first. This would enable offenders such as Conservative MP Derek Conway (who paid his son more than £40,000 from his Parliamentary allowances despite there being no record of him doing any work for the MP) to remain in their seat providing Parliament issued another, albeit lesser, ‘punishment’.

Commenting, Jo said:

“Giving constituents the ability to recall their MPs if they are guilty of wrong-doing or dishonesty is vital to ensuring accountability. We should not have situations where constituents have to wait until the next General Election to get rid of an MP who has been shown to be corrupt. I have called in Parliament for such a law to be passed, and I am glad that Gordon Brown has come around to the idea, although it is a shame that it took a national political scandal for him to take it seriously.

“However, the Prime Minister’s proposals are half-hearted, leaving too much power in the hands of Parliament to regulate itself. Ultimately it must be down to the constituents, not Parliament to decide whether the MP should retain their seat. I will be lobbying the Government to ensure that voters can remove errant MPs whether Parliament has punished them or not.”

In his speech to the Labour Party Conference, Gordon Brown said:

“And so where there is proven financial corruption by an MP and in cases where wrongdoing has been demonstrated but Parliament fails to act, we will give constituents the right to recall their MP.”

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