Nick Clegg's promise to push through plans to allow MPs to be sacked mid-term in the wake of the latest lobbying scandal has been dismissed as inadequate by political reform campaigners.
Proposals to introduce a power of Recall were included in the 2010 coalition agreement signed by Clegg and David Cameron. Despite the pledge legislation has yet to be introduced and many feared it had been kicked into the long grass.
However allegations that MP Patrick Mercer broke parliamentary rules by accepting money in return for asking questions in the Commons have reignited calls for voters to be given the right to force MPs out of office before a general election.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph on Monday, the deputy prime minister pledged to bring in a right of Recall which he said would "reaffirm the principle that MPs serve the people". However he warned the mechanism "must not be open to abuse by political opponents looking to oust one another" from their seats.
He said: "We need to tread carefully though: kangaroo courts are as corrosive for our democracy as errant MPs."
Under Clegg's plans, MPs who are accused of serious wrongdoing would have the allegations examined by the Commons Standards and Privileges committee before voters are given the opportunity to vote them out.
However Tory MP Douglas Carswell said this mechanism denied the public the true power of Recall as it would be up to "Westminster grandees" to decide which MPs faced a by-election.
Writing on his blog on Monday morning he said: "That's the sort of scheme one might expect to find in a tin pot republic, not a genuine democracy."
"The government's recall proposal does precisely the opposite of what a real recall mechanism should do. It concentrates power into the hands of party whips in Westminster, rather than passing it out to the people."
Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith also savaged the plan. "Instead of handing power to voters which is what recall means all over the world, it effectively hands powers up to a parliamentary committee. It empowers the parties not the voters," he told BBC News.
"Under government's scheme I can still go to Barbados for two years and say to hell with my constituents, I can still join the BNP tomorrow morning even though not one voter in Richmond voted BNP, I can decide never to come back to parliament. I would not have broken a singe rule, I would not qualify for recall under the government's plan."
And Peter Facey, the director of campaign group Unlock Democracy said the coalition's recall plans were inadequate and "nothing new".
“The government’s proposals on recall made it almost impossible for constituents to sack their MP even where they had been found guilty of serious misconduct," he said.
"We need a system that puts the power in the hands of voters not the establishment in Westminster. If the system only serves to raise people’s expectations without making a meaningful difference, its only effect will be to increase public cynicism.”
The government has also pledged to introduce the much-delayed statutory register of lobbyists in the wake of the Mercer allegations. And it has also been reported ministers may look again and plans to reform the House of Lords to allow peers to be expelled after peers were caught up in the scandal.Suggest a correction