Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Assault charge MP 'to stand down'

Eric Joyce says he will not seek re-election as MP for Falkirk

An MP suspended from the Labour Party after being charged with assault has reportedly said he will stand down from Parliament at the next general election.

Eric Joyce told the Daily Record he would not quit as MP for Falkirk immediately but will not fight the election, expected in 2015.

Labour withdrew the whip from Mr Joyce after he was charged with three counts of assault in connection with an alleged incident in an MPs' bar in the House of Commons on February 22. He is due to appear in court on March 9.

Mr Joyce, 51, denied that his decision to stand down was linked to media reports about his alleged relationship with a 17-year-old election helper.

He told the Record that there was no suggestion of anything "illegal or unlawful" in his relations with the young woman, adding: "I was very friendly with her for several months, 18 months ago. She was a young, impressionable girl... I kind of got my communications with her wrong."

Labour's Scottish leader Johann Lamont on Thursday said that the reports made the former Army major "unfit to stand for Labour" in an election.

"If these reports are true, this sounds like a man who has abused a position of power and authority. I am disgusted. Regardless of other issues, I believe this makes him unfit to stand for Labour," she said.

Under parliamentary rules, MPs automatically lose their seat if they are sentenced to more than 12 months in jail, but there is no requirement for them to leave the Commons if they are charged with a criminal offence or convicted and given a lesser punishment.

Despite his suspension as a Labour MP, Mr Joyce can continue to sit as an independent with a full MP's salary of £65,738 a year, as well as allowances.

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