POLITICS

Recall Election Plans Too Weak And Should Be Abandoned, Say MPs

28/06/2012 12:51 BST

The government should abandon its plan to allow voters to sack MPs mid-term, a Commons committee has said.

In a report published on Thursday the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee said the proposed powers of recall were so weak that they could actually reduce the public's confidence in politics.

In December last year the government published a draft Bill that proposed that MPs found guilty of "serious wrongdoing" could be being kicked out of parliament if 10% of voters in a constituency signed a petition against them.

But under the plans a petition could only be held if they were first censured by a vote in the House of Commons and could not be triggered by voters themselves.

A by-election would also automatically take place if an MP was convicted of a criminal offence and was sentenced to less than a year in prison.

Labour MP Graham Allen, the chair of the committee, said: "It is vital that there is public confidence in the political process. But the restricted form of recall proposed by the government risks creating the illusion that people will have a say in recalling their elected representative while ensuring that this will probably never happen in practice."

He added: "There is a real danger that this could alienate people still further."

The committee said the coalition should ditch its plan and instead use the freed up parliamentary time "to better effect".

"Voters themselves would not be able to initiate a recall petition, and the circumstances in which a petition would be triggered are limited," the report notes.

"This reduces the risk of vexatious attempts to remove MPs, but leads us to question whether such a narrow form of recall is worth introducing at all."

However the MPs acknowledge that the government is unlikely to ditch its Bill given the introduction of a power of recall was included in the coalition agreement.

The plans were also recently attacked by Labour MP Kevin Barron, who chairs the Commons standards and privileges committee.

Barron said the power of recall could be abused for party political advantage and warned parliament would "implode" if members could be forced to face a by-election for no more than breaching their code of conduct, he said.

In May Tory MP Zac Goldsmith raised concerns that the government was quietly ditching its plans to bring in a power of recall after it was not mentioned in the Queen's Speech.

However the Cabinet Office insisted at the time that it was not backing down on the proposals and was simply waiting for today's report from the Commons committee before it brought forward legislation.