Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 6 November 2014


Parliament still has some way to go to recapture lost trust from the electorate following the 2009 expenses storm.

Our historic system is that the electorate hold us to account at a general election every 5 years. The view has arisen that for serious misdemeanours that period is too long and constituents need the power to remove malfeasant MPs sooner. I agree with that.

In the Queen's Speech the government brought forward a Recall Bill that we have been debating and voting on in recent weeks.

The Bill provides for a recall petition to be triggered if a Member is sentenced to a prison term or is suspended from the House for at least 21 sitting days. If either occurred, the Speaker would give notice to a petition officer, who in turn would give notice to parliamentary electors in the constituency.

A petition would then be open for signing for eight weeks. If at the end of that period at least 10 per cent of eligible electors (about 7,000 people) had signed the petition, the seat would be declared vacant and a by-election would follow. The Member who was recalled could stand in the by-election.

Last week I voted for an amendment (put forward by one of my colleagues) that did away with the first part of the Bill that limits recall to the narrow provisions set out above. If we are going to have recall at all I think voters should be able to trigger a by-election for any reason, including for example, if the MP does not visit the constituency or is very lazy. My predecessor used to come about twice a year and only to upset people! This is far from the most important law I will ever vote on, but if we are going to do it, we may as well do it properly.

The key thing in my approach is to make the threshold high enough to discourage vexatious political trouble-making, but low enough to make it possible to work in severe circumstances. I thought 20% of the electorate (14,000) signing a petition was about the right level. In this model, Parliament would have no prior say, it would simply be down to the electorate.

Sadly, this amendment was voted down and we are stuck with a Bill that does little to solve the problem of trust. I suspect we will return to this issue in the future. Trust has to be earned.

posted by Gary @ 10:41