Watch: Birmingham MP supports recall but says no to placing power in the hands of pressure groups

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Parliament has spent the past couple of weeks locked in internal debate about what should happen to those MPs whose actions are such that they demean their right to serve in public office.

 

All three main parties went into the last election promising a measure of recall for those MPs who transgress. Many members of parliament feel that the Bill finally brought forward by the Deputy Prime Minister is too weak and still places too much power in the hands of MPs themselves. Conversely a vigorous campaign by the Lobby group 38Degrees and backed by Zac Goldsmith MP has been criticised for handing too much power and influence to well resourced, politically motivated organisations who wish to impose their views on Members of Parliament.

 

MPs rejected Zac Goldsmith’s proposals last week by 2:1 (161 For 340 Against) but it is clear there is still a long way to go before satisfactory proposals get parliamentary approval.

 

Selly Oak MP Steve McCabe has indicated that he has a number of concerns about the Bill and Mr Goldsmith’s amendments which he voted against.

 

He said, ‘I support the right of recall and will vote for that principle until it becomes law. I don’t think the Deputy PM’s proposals are strong enough and I’m clear that where an MP is guilty of misconduct his or her constituents must have the right to recall them. However I worry about a situation where a well-funded, politically motivated group might seek to use the process to pressure an MP to support their agenda with the threat of constant recall petitions as a means of undermining them if they don’t agree.’

 

Under the present proposals there is no definition of the grounds for recall and indeed the Returning Officer, the Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council, could well find himself arbitrating on whether or not a petition is valid. There is no limit to the number of recall petitions although the government has confirmed that a local authority would bear the cost. And, strangely those who sign the petition are allowed to keep their names secret, unlike the marked register at an election which is a public document.

 

Steve McCabe said, ‘The Bill still has a long way to go and I’m hopeful we can reach a compromise which is sensible in terms of costs, trusts the judgement of the public where an MP has transgressed but doesn’t expose our politics to manipulation by fanatics and politically motivated organisations as we witness in America and elsewhere.’

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