Recall of MPs Bill – Bishop of Chester speaks on amendments

 On 10th February 2015 the Bishop of Chester, Rt Rev Peter Forster, spoke during the Lords deliberation of an amendment to the Recall of MPs Bill concerning conditions for commencing the recall process. The amendment, in the name of Lord Tyler, was withdrawn following the debate. His comments are below and can be seen in context on the UK Parliament website, here.

14.03 Bishop of ChesterThe Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, I will speak briefly on this. I think that it is a mistake to play off these conditions against each other, as if you were to ditch one and get a quid pro quo strength in another. In principle, one should take and look at each condition on its own merit and principle. I do not want to refer to the second condition, as I do not quite understand the dynamics of what happens in the other place; other Members will understand.

The first recall condition needs to have about it a certain level of trigger. Simply to be convicted of any offence and then potentially to find this juggernaut or sledgehammer process kicking in seems wrong. As we all know, when these processes begin, the issues to which they are supposed to refer are not those on which they are fought. At the moment in our political system you need to get only 10% of the electors to agree to recall the MP and have a by-election. It would be easy for people to use a minor indiscretion that leads to a criminal conviction to generate this rather costly and unfortunate process. I believe in the Bill in principle, but there should be a healthy trigger. As set out, the trigger requiring that a conviction leads to a sentence of imprisonment, which I assume also includes a suspended sentence, seems about right