Published On: Mon, May 13th, 2024
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MPs to be banned Parliament if arrested for serious crimes under new change | Politics | News

MPs arrested for serious sexual or violent offences will be banned from Parliament after the House of Commons voted for the change.

Parliamentarians voted by a majority of just one – 170 to 169 – in favour of the proposal from Liberal Democrat Wendy Chamberlain, even though some wanted the threshold for barring MPs to be only when they are charged.

The House of Commons Commission initially proposed that a risk assessment would take place on whether an MP should be prevented from attending the parliamentary estate if arrested on suspicion of committing a violent or sexual offence.

The proposal was later revised so the threshold for a ban was at the point of charge, but tonight’s vote has moved the threshold again.

MPs have previously only been prevented from attending the parliamentary estate by voluntary arrangements with their own party whips under such circumstances.

The division list showed eight Conservative MPs voted in favour of the amendment, including former prime minister Theresa May. Natalie Elphicke – who defected to Labour from the Tories last week – also supported it.

Mike Clancy, general secretary of the Prospect trade union, said: “This is an important and overdue victory for common sense and those working on the parliamentary estate.

“We have campaigned tirelessly for any MPs arrested for sexual or violent offences to be excluded from the estate at the point of arrest. These proposals must now be implemented as soon as possible.”

FDA general secretary Dave Penman described the result as a “significant victory” for the union’s members, staff and visitors on the parliamentary estate, adding: “Parliament is a workplace for thousands and these new formal procedures give staff the safe working environment they deserve and would expect in any other workplace.”

Labour’s Jess Phillips (Birmingham Yardley), who also pressed the case for exclusion at the point of arrest, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter: “S***! We won the vote by one.”

She had earlier told the Commons debate: “Today, just on this one day, I have spoken to two women who were raped by members of this Parliament; that’s a fairly standard day for me.

“I notice these are not the people who have so far been mentioned much today and some of them told me what they wanted me to say.”

Ms Phillips, reading out remarks, said: “Exclusion at the point of charge sends a clear message to victims that not only will we not investigate unless a victim goes to the police but we won’t act unless they’re charged, which happens in less than one percent of cases. ‘So what’s the point?’ was essentially what this victim said to me.”

She added: “I’m going to stand here and speak up for them because every single one of them wishes for this to be on arrest.”

Conservative former minister Sir Michael Ellis had also said there were constitutional and legal implications to excluding MPs on arrest.

He said: “There is a key principle here, there’s a golden thread that runs through our system that a person must not suffer imposition before guilt has been proven. And it is offensive against the laws of natural justice, and in fact contrary to human rights to do so.”

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