Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Coalition row as MP recall bid axed

A furious row has broken out within the coalition after the Government dropped plans to allow voters to get rid of errant MPs.

The coalition agreement of 2010 included a promise of early legislation to introduce a "power of recall", allowing voters to force their MP to face a by-election by raising a petition of 10% of constituents.

The Liberal Democrats accused Prime Minister David Cameron of blocking the bill creating a recall power from inclusion in the final Queen's Speech of the Parliament.

If no bill is included in the Speech, expected in May, there is virtually no chance of it becoming law before the UK goes to the polls for next year's general election.

But Tory backbencher Zac Goldsmith, who has campaigned to give voters recall powers, accused Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg of failing to properly support the measure and branded the Lib Dems "revolting".

The coalition agreement sealed by Mr Cameron and Lib Dem leader Mr Clegg in the wake of the inconclusive 2010 election included a promise on recall in response to widespread voter discontent about the House of Commons' expenses scandal.

The agreement stated: " We will bring forward early legislation to introduce a power of recall, allowing voters to force a by-election where an MP is found to have engaged in serious wrong-doing and having had a petition calling for a by-election signed by 10% of his or her constituents."

But Lib Dem president Tim Farron told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We understand that the Prime Minister has blocked it. Nick Clegg wanted it in the Queen's Speech, which would have meant that there was a bill there that we could have discussed which would have meant that MPs guilty of wrongdoing could be recalled.

"That would have been a positive step in the right direction. It seems very wrong to me that an MP can be in position for the five years of a Parliament, get up to things which all of us would agree are inappropriate and be in a position where they would not be able to be held to account during that time.

"That's the basic, modest proposal that was agreed in the coalition agreement and there's no obvious excuse or good reason for David Cameron to block that vote now, but that is what he has done."

Mr Farron added: "It looks as though certain MPs are running scared of their electorate. We should never be scared of our electorate."

But Mr Goldsmith launched a Twitter tirade at Mr Clegg over his handling of the recall process.

He said: "Clegg told me he couldn't back a proper Recall Bill (despite his manifesto promise) because MPs might actually be sacked.

"Now in typical Lib Dem fashion, Clegg is briefing that the Tories have ditched recall (his department is supposed to be delivering it)."

He added: "Even by the shitty standards of dishonest UK politics, the LibDems really are revolting. I cannot understand why anyone supports them."

Urging the Prime Minister to act, he wrote: " If David Cameron has a backbone, he will slam Clegg's sleazy pretence that he's been trying to get recall through - & then do it himself."

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said: "This is another broken promise from David Cameron. He's now backtracking from his own manifesto commitment to introduce recall of MPs.

"And Nick Clegg's claims back in 2010 that he'd be the 'great reformer' on the constitution are frankly laughable as he's got nothing whatsoever to show for it."

Downing Street refused to comment on "speculation" about the contents of the Queen's Speech.


From Belfast Telegraph