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Updated proposals for exclusion of MPs

On 14 December 2023, the House of Commons Commission published updated proposals for a policy on risk-based exclusion of MPs (PDF).

The Commission has proposed that when the Clerk of the House is provided with information from the police about an MP who is subject to serious allegations relating to a violent or sexual offence, a risk assessment will take place. In practice, the Clerk would be provided with this information when the MP was arrested, so the risk assessment would also occur on arrest.

In its report, the Commission noted the changes made to the policy as originally proposed:

(a) There is no longer a staff panel which makes an initial assessment.

(b) The risk assessment will take into consideration whether there is an existing voluntary arrangement between the Member and their whip to stay away from the Estate.

(c) A risk assessment will be triggered when information is received from the Police regarding serious allegations that a Member has committed a violent or sexual offence. In practice, this will be at the point of arrest.

(d) There will be a review of the operation of the policy after six months

The Commission also proposed that excluded MPs would be offered a proxy vote for seven months in the first instance.

A motion on “Risk-based exclusion” was published on 31 January 2024. It provides for the House to approve the Commission’s report; to agree a new Standing Order to implement the Risk-based exclusion policy; and to allow MPs who are excluded from the Parliamentary estate to apply for a proxy vote. The motion also requires the Speaker to appoint a panel to review the operation of the new Standing Order by 16 September 2024.

The motion and amendments to it were expected to be considered by MPs on Monday 4 March 2024, after it was announced on 22 February. However, the debate was not mentioned when the Leader of the House announced the forthcoming business on 29 February.

Background

Concern has been expressed, particularly by parliamentary staff, that MPs who are under investigation for sexual misconduct, or in some cases sexual offences, are continuing to attend Parliament.

In April 2022, the Procedure Committee published a memorandum from the Clerk of the House of Commons on barring MPs from the precincts (PDF). He said:

It is a fundamental constitutional right for Members who have been elected by their constituents to represent them here, and no-one outside the House itself has power to curtail that right.

Although it would be possible for the House, by resolution, to require MPs not to attend Parliament, the Clerk identified two counter-considerations. First, ensuring continued representation for constituents and second, fairness to the individual under investigation.

The issue was then considered by the House of Commons Commission, which employs House staff.

Developing proposals on excluding MPs

In December 2022, the House of Commons Commission launched a consultation on excluding MPs charged with violent or sexual offences from the Parliamentary Estate and Parliamentary-funded travel (PDF).

On 5 June 2023, the Commission published proposals for excluding MPs (PDF) “where the Clerk or the Director of Security for Parliament is presented with credible allegations of sexual or violent offending by the police at any point in the criminal justice process, including but not confined to the point of arrest or charge”.

The exclusions would apply to the Parliamentary Estate and Parliament-funded travel.

The Commission also published a risk identification tool (PDF), risk mitigation processes (PDF) and terms of exclusion (PDF).

A debate on ‘risk-based exclusion of Members of Parliament’ was held on 12 June 2023, in the Commons Chamber.

In closing the debate, on 12 June, Penny Mordaunt, the Leader of the House of Commons and a member of the Commission, identified issues that would require further consideration by the House of Commons Commission.

At its meeting on 10 July 2023, the Commission considered potential amendments (PDF) and agreed to make further proposals to the House after the summer recess.

At its meeting on 23 October 2023, the Commission “requested further development of its proposals relating to risk-based exclusion” (PDF).

As noted above, updated proposals were published by the Commission on 14 December 2023.

Recent cases

On 26 October 2023, Crispin Blunt issued a statement saying that he had been arrested in connection with an allegation of rape. It was subsequently reported that he had been asked to stay away from Parliament.

In May 2022, it was reported that one other unnamed MP had also been asked to stay away from Parliament while police investigate rape allegations.

House of Lords

The House of Lords Procedure and Privileges Committee proposed a temporary exclusion scheme and a standing order to give it effect (PDF), in a report published on 12 February 2024.

The House of Lords debated the Scheme and approved the new standing order on 28 February 2024.


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