In crucial votes on a Bill to give people the right to ‘recall’ their MP and trigger a by-election, Theresa Villiers supported Zac Goldmith’s amendment to strengthen the proposed new law. In this article, she sets out the progress made towards delivering a new right of recall in UK politics:
“The Coalition Government’s Bill on this issue provides that constituents are able to recall their MP if they are found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing. Under its provisions, MPs can be held to account between elections, but would not be left vulnerable to attack by those who simply disagree with them.
The creation of a recall mechanism was a commitment in the Coalition’s Programme for Government. It was a measure to which all three of the main party manifestos committed in 2010.
Under the proposals in the Bill, a recall petition would be opened where an MP is convicted in the UK of an offence and receives a custodial sentence of 12 months or less (for more than 12 months an MP is automatically expelled); or the House of Commons orders the suspension of an MP for at least 21 sitting days.
To be successful, a recall petition would need to be signed by at least 10 per cent of the registered voters in the constituency, whereupon the MP’s seat would become vacant and a by-election held.
In the light of the representations made to me by my constituents, I voted for Zac Goldsmith’s amendment to strengthen the recall mechanism. The amendment provided that MPs would face a recall referendum if 5% of voters in a constituency sign a "notice of intent to recall" and 20% then sign a "recall petition". This would have removed the stage of the process whereby the House of Commons decides on whether an MP could potentially face a recall ballot or not.
Although the amendment was defeated, the Bill would still deliver a recall mechanism for the first time in UK politics and a new means to hold MPs to account where their behaviour falls below acceptable standards.
More amendments are likely to be tabled as MPs and peers carry out further work on the Bill before the final version is voted on.”