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Risk-Based Exclusion Amendment

Standards in Parliament, and the conduct of members has been something that I’ve ended up being involved in since I was elected. Back in 2021, I secured an emergency debate on Standards after attempts by Boris Johnson to save a Conservative MP, Owen Paterson, from suspension in relation to lobbying allegations. I subsequently secured cross party support for an amendment to the Members Code of Conduct to ensure that Member can no longer vote in relation to their own suspension as the previous system meant that an MP could effectively act as both defendant and jury in their own case.

This week, I tabled an amendment to proposals from the Leader of the House, Penny Mordaunt, to reverse recommendations in relation to potentially excluding MPs who are under criminal investigation from attending Parliament. The initial proposals were that a member could be considered for exclusion at the point where they had been arrested on suspicion of a sexual or other serious offence. The new proposals had raised the bar to the point of charge. For me, the point of these proposals was primarily for safeguarding, and I therefore believed that the change was wrong, and argued in the debate accordingly.

One the other side of the argument, some MPs made the case around natural justice and presumption of innocence. I absolutely agree that these things are important. But the proposals are for safeguarding and to ensure the safety of visitors and staff to Parliament. They make no judgement on the guilt or otherwise of an individual. The reality is that a number of MPs who have been under investigation have voluntarily agreed to absent themselves from the estate via their party whips. By having a higher bar, it’s more likely that such exclusions will continue. I want these decisions to be made for safeguarding reasons, not political or party reputational ones.

The other argument put forward was in relation to the unique nature of the role of an MP, in that we are not employees, and that absence from the estate means that an individual cannot represent their constituents. Again, I would argue that, although our role is unique, I believe that where MPs can align themselves with general employment practices, they should. If a teacher had been arrested on suspicion of rape for example, they would not be at work, and that should be the case for MPs too. In terms of representation, the more online nature of our work means that MPs can still table questions, write to Ministers and undertake casework. Indeed one of the challenges of the proposals overall is that they can only cover Parliament itself. A member can continue to work in their constituency, which again raises its own issues.

As House business, Monday’s motion was unwhipped, meaning that parties did not advise their MPs how to vote. I was pleased to get signed support for my amendment from members of four parties, including Jess Phillips of Labour, who is well known for campaigning on these issues. When the vote happened, 8 Conservative also supported it, including former Prime Minister Theresa May. It passed by only one vote, but this does mean that the whole scheme will now be implemented as initially proposed by the Commission.

Since Monday, I’ve been contacted by a number of staff working across the estate to tell me how important Monday’s vote was, not only in what it will deliver and the message that it sends. I hope Parliament continues on the journey of delivering a culture in Parliament that values and protects all.


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