A loophole in the MP complaints system may see Rob Roberts avoid a by-election – despite his whopping 6-week suspension. Suspension judgments greater than 10 sitting days – handed down from the Standards Commissioner – entitle an MP’s constituents to initiate a recall petition; if it hits a 10% threshold, a by-election would have to be held. Yet because the ruling came from the newly-established Independent Expert Panel, Rob Roberts’ suspension will not entitle his constituents to this right. The IEP was only established in 2020 – this is the first ruling against an MP by it, thereby explaining why the loophole’s only just been noticed.
Various senior ministers have indicated moves are afoot to close this loophole, though it may not come in time to see Roberts sacked by his voters. There are also concerns that retrospective changes to target one individual may not go down well. Retrospective legislation is rightly seen as bad law. The government has said Jacob Rees-Mogg will “invite relevant bodies to consider whether any changes could be made in future to the process to enable recall to be triggered.” The phrasing “in future” make Mogg’s orthodox view clear.
This morning Grant Shapps said he agreed “this loophole does need to be closed”, and at PMQs Boris said he would “take that point very seriously” when asked by a Welsh Labour MP whether the government would introduce emergency measures to close the loophole. It sounds like MPs are to vote on Roberts’ suspension tomorrow morning.