Recall of MPs Act 2015
The Recall of MPs Act 2015 (c. 25) is an act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that makes provision for constituents to be able to recall their Member of Parliament (MP) and call a by-election. It received royal assent on 26 March 2015 after being introduced on 11 September 2014.
|Act of Parliament|
|Long title||An Act to make provision about the recall of members of the House of Commons; and for connected purposes.|
|Citation||2015 c. 25|
|Introduced by||Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom|
|Territorial extent||United Kingdom|
(England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland)
|Royal assent||26 March 2015|
|Commencement||26 March 2015|
Status: Current legislation
|History of passage through Parliament|
|Text of statute as originally enacted|
Unlike recall procedures in some other countries, the act does not allow constituents to initiate proceedings. Instead, proceedings are initiated only if an MP is found guilty of a wrongdoing that fulfils certain criteria. This petition is successful if at least one in ten voters in the constituency sign. Successful petitions force the recalled MP to vacate the seat, resulting in a by-election.
To date, three petitions have been made under the act; two of these received sufficient signatures to trigger a by-election.
Before the passage of the act there were no mechanisms to recall Members of Parliament (MPs) in the UK. The Representation of the People Act 1981 disqualifies any person in jail for more than a year from being an MP, and thus automatically ejects an MP so jailed. MPs involved in scandals or convicted of lesser crimes could be pressured to resign, but there was no mechanism to force the exit of an MP prior to a general election.
Supporters for introducing recall mechanisms included the pressure group 38 Degrees and the National Union of Students. The UK government gave a commitment in the 2010 Coalition Agreement to bring into force a power of recall. In the aftermath of the United Kingdom parliamentary expenses scandal, a number of MPs involved in wrongdoing resigned after related court cases—for example Eric Illsley, whose resignation caused the 2011 Barnsley Central by-election, and Denis MacShane, who caused the 2012 Rotherham by-election—were cases brought up by supporters of recall to allow voters to "sack" MPs who break the rules.
In June 2012, the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee published its reports into the recall process, listing twenty conclusions and recommendations which included the views that "a system of full recall may deter MPs from taking decisions that are unpopular locally or unpopular in the short-term, but which are in the long-term national interest", "[w]e note that expulsion would not prevent the person concerned standing in the resulting by-election. We recommend that the Government abandon its plans to introduce a power of recall", and "We have not seen enough evidence to support the suggestion that it will increase public confidence in politics, and fear that the restricted form of recall proposed could even reduce confidence by creating expectations that are not fulfilled."
In October 2014, during the final stage of debate on the bill in the Commons, opponents of the recall process pressed for assurances that voters could not begin recall petitions on the basis of views held or speeches made. Labour MP Geraint Davies said that misuse of the process would be an "intrinsic corruption of our democracy". Labour MP Frank Dobson opposed recall as a threat to "hinder social progress" by "vested interests".
Details of the act
Section 1 sets out the circumstances in which the Speaker of the House of Commons would trigger the recall process, namely:
- A custodial prison sentence
- Note that MPs imprisoned with sentences greater than one year are automatically removed due to the Representation of the People Act 1981
- Suspension from the House of at least 10 sitting days or 14 calendar days, following a report by the Committee on Standards;
- A conviction for providing false or misleading expenses claims.
Sections 7–11 outline the procedure whereby the petition is forwarded by the electoral returning officer for the constituency to the MP's constituents for ratification, approval by 10 per cent of the registered electors triggering the loss of the MP's seat and a by-election.
Section 15 confirms that the seat becomes vacant if the petition is successful, if it has not already been vacated by disqualification or death, or otherwise.
Once one of the conditions outlined in the act is fulfilled, the Speaker informs the petitions officer of the constituency (in most cases this would be the returning officer or acting returning officer). The petitions officer is then required to make the practical arrangements for the petition so as to open the proceedings within ten working days after the Speaker's notification. This involves selecting up to ten signing locations where petitioners can sign in person, these function in a similar manner to election polling stations. As with votes in elections, voters are able to sign via post or proxy. Campaigning for or against recalling the MP is regulated by spending restrictions.
The petition remains open for six weeks. No ongoing tally is reported by the petitions officer and it is not revealed if the required threshold of 10 per cent of eligible voters threshold has been reached until the close of the petition period. During the petition period the MP remains in office. If the petition is successful the seat becomes vacant and by-election procedures begin.
If the MP vacates the seat, or a general election is called, the recall is halted and the petition ends.
Recall petitions made under the act
|57th||North Antrim, 2018||Ian Paisley Jr (independent, suspended from the DUP during the petition period)||30-day suspension from the House||Unsuccessful (9.4%)|
|Peterborough, 2019||Fiona Onasanya (independent, elected as Labour)||Custodial sentence of less than a year||Successful (27.6%), triggering a by-election. Onasanya did not stand in the by-election. The Labour candidate won the by-election.|
|Brecon and Radnorshire, 2019||Christopher Davies (Conservative)||Conviction for providing false or misleading expenses claims||Successful (18.9%), triggering a by-election. Davies was the Conservative candidate in the by-election, but the seat was won by the Liberal Democrat candidate.|
A recall petition was not triggered in the case of Rob Roberts' six-week House suspension in May 2021 as this case was judged by the Independent Expert Panel rather than the Committee on Standards. This was described as an 'anomaly' in the procedure. Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg stated that Roberts should resign and pledged to review whether the scope of recall should be extended to such cases.
- "Bill stages — Recall of MPs Act 2015". Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
- "Recall of MPs Act 2015". The Stationery Office. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
- "Recall of MPs Act 2015 - Legislation PDF" (PDF). The Stationery Office. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
- ONE DOWN TWO TO GO – NICK CLEGG ACCEPTS OUR CALL FOR A RIGHT TO RECALL YOUR MP 38Degrees
- NUS launches "Right to Recall" campaign NUS
- Impact Assessment Right to Recall Parliament.uk
- Voters to get right to sack 'bad apple' MPs as Labour and Lib Dems back stronger Recall powers The Daily Telegraph
- Public could get right to sack misbehaving MPs The Daily Telegraph
- Zac's Campaign for True Recall Zac Goldsmith MP
- "Right to Recall MPs" PCRC Report June 2012
- The good, the bad and the ugly in the Recall debate Conservative Home
- Power to the People? This recall Bill will do no such thing The Guardian
- Say No! to the recall of MPs Labour List
- "BBC - Editorial Guidelines - Editorial Guidelines". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 20 March 2019.
There are automatic reporting restrictions in relation to recall petitions. They state that until the end of the last day of the signing period of the petition we must not publish / broadcast: Any statement relating to whether any person has signed the petition where that statement is (or might reasonably be taken to be) based on information given by that person; or Any forecast as to the result of the petition which is (or might reasonably be taken to be) based on information so given.
- Library, House of Commons (10 August 2018). "The first use of a 'recall petition' in the UK". House of Commons Library. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
- McCormack, Jayne (16 August 2018). "Ian Paisley recall petition opens". Retrieved 26 March 2019.
- "Welsh Tory MP unseated after petition". BBC News. 21 June 2019. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
- "Commons suspends Tory MP Rob Roberts over sexual harassment". the Guardian. 27 May 2021. Retrieved 27 May 2021.