POLITICS

Queen's Speech: Recall Bill Omission A 'Grave Disappointment' Says Zac Goldsmith

09/05/2013 07:57 BST | Updated 09/05/2013 08:42 BST
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Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith gives evidence to the Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions at Portcullis House, London.

The government's failure to include legislation that would allow voters to kick MPs out of parliament mid-term in the Queen's Speech is a "grave disappointment", according Tory MP Zac Goldsmith.

Goldsmith, the MP for Richmond, has long argued that MPs should be kept on their toes by facing the possibility of a by-election if their constituents decide they are not performing as they should be - even if they have years left before a general election.

"In terms of the proposed political reforms, Recall was really the only one that would have empowered voters in any meaningful sense, and because it would also ensure greater accountability for MPs, it would bolster their position, provide an implied mandate, and strengthen our democracy as a whole," he told HuffPost UK.

"Clearly its absence from the Queen's Speech was a grave disappointment, but I still hope the government will honour its commitment to bring in Recall before the next election, and I intend to apply pressure wherever possible to ensure that happens."

The coalition agreement between the Conservative Party and the Lib Dems pledged to: "bring forward early legislation to introduce a power of recall, allowing voters to force a by-election where an MP was found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing and having had a petition calling for a by-election signed by 10% of his or her constituents."

Goldsmith is not a huge fan of the government's draft plan for recall, having criticised it for placing too much power in the hands of politicians themselves rather than voters.

Under the coalition proposals an MP would only face a by-election if they were sentenced to jail for more than 12-months or if the Commons standards and privileges committee, which is made up of MPs, decided he or she was guilty of "serious wrongdoing".

Pressure for the mechanism of recall, similar to that which exists in the United States, came in the wake of the 2009 expenses scandal which saw scores of MPs condemned for fiddling their allowances.

Goldsmith pressed Nick Clegg on the issue just last month when he made a surprise call to the deputy prime minister's 'Call Clegg' LBC radio show. The Tory MP said the power of recall would "genuinely empower voters" at a time when so many were cynical about politics and politicians.

The coalition has struggled to come up with a Bill that will please both MPs and campaigners. Clegg acknowledged many MPs feared a Recall Bill could become a "kangaroo court" that would see them strung up by constituents who did not like their politics or personalities - rather than their behaviour.

"There's quite a lot of debate about what exactly the triggers are and how much you have to first prove serious wrongdoing in parliament," Clegg said.

It is not the first time Goldsmith and political reform campaigners have been disappointed. The Richmond MP had also hoped to see legislation announced in last year's Queen Speech.