The Government has announced today their plans to allow for a 'recall' system for MPs found guilty of serious wrong doing. But the system has been strongly criticised as putting the power in the hands of MPs rather than voters.
The basic premise is that if 10% of constituents sign a petition for recall then an MP would face a by-election. But the government has inserted caveats that mean that the final decision will rest with MPs themselves in cases where the MP is not sent to jail (an MP sent to jail for more than a year is automatically disqualified). Apparently this is to avoid an MP being forced out unfairly or for 'political' reasons. I fear this will mean that MPs from a party (or coalition) with a majority in the House of Commons will be vulnerable but opposition or rebellious MPs would be more likely to face recall.
If recall is to happen, surely there should be a more objective set of rules governing the system. The 10% figures is clearly such a measure, as is the prison term. But there the robustness ends. Let's take the vacillations of MPs out of the equation. I would suggest that it be a matter for the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner to declare whether a breach of the rules is 'serious' (or some other term) and that this should be the means to trigger the recall procedure.