politics

Boris Johnson says disgraced MP has been punished despite just 6 week suspension


Boris Johnson has insisted that a disgraced MP has been handed an appropriate punishment for breaching sexual misconduct rules – despite him only facing a six week suspension.

Delyn MP Rob Roberts lost the Tory whip after the Independent Expert Panel (IEP) said he had made repeated unwanted advances to a member of staff.

The panel ruled that he had committed “significant” misconduct and abused his position, and proposed a six week suspension which must be approved by MPs.

Mr Roberts apologised for his actions, saying the “breach of trust” was “completely improper and should not have happened”.

However he looks set to avoid losing his seat due to a legal loophole.

A recall petition to allow constituents to vote for a by-election is automatically triggered when an MP is suspended for more than 10 sitting days or they are convicted of a criminal offence.



Boris Johnson said ex-Tory MP Rob Roberts had had 'condign punishment'
Boris Johnson said ex-Tory MP Rob Roberts had had ‘condign punishment’

But this process only begins on the recommendation of the Commons Standards Committee or another parliamentary committee – as the independent panel didn’t exist when the law was passed.

The Government has been facing calls to close the loophole, with Labour MP Gerald Jones challenging Mr Johnson on the issue at Prime Minister’s Questions.

Mr Johnson said he would “take that point very seriously” before adding: “If he is referring to a Conservative member who has recently had the whip taken away, he can take it that that member has already had condign punishment.”

At this stage, one Labour MP could be heard shouting “six weeks”, a nod to the punishment recommended for Mr Roberts.

Cabinet minister Grant Shapps earlier said the loophole in Mr Roberts’ case needed to be closed.

The Transport Secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This has gone through a new independent process and doesn’t have the same rules about the so-called recall process which is where constituents can essentially call for an election.

“Although it’s a decision for the House of Commons, I rather agree that this loophole does need to be closed.”

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg “will be saying more about the lack of recall provision”, he added.

“This should not have the exemption from recall just because it has gone through this newly independent process and I know the Leader of the House intends to come forward and say more about it.”

Mr Rees-Mogg will invite the “relevant bodies” to consider whether the laws need to be changed to enable the recall process to be triggered.

A Government spokesman said: “A case of this severity highlights the need to look again at whether the process is striking the right balance between protecting the confidentiality of complainants and ensuring consistency with other types of conduct cases.

“The central aim of the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme is to help improve the working culture of Parliament and it will need to continue to evolve and improve over time.

“The Leader of the House will invite the relevant bodies to consider whether any changes could be made in future to the process to enable recall to be triggered.”

Labour MP Chris Bryant, chairman of the Committee on Standards, said it was a “glaring anomaly” that the recall process was not triggered by a sanction recommended by the Independent Expert Panel.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “This is fundamentally a decision for the House of Commons, but a case of this severity has raised questions around whether changes need to be made in order for a recall to be triggered in the future.

“So the Leader of the House of Commons is going to be having conversations across the House over the next few days urging them to consider what more can be done to improve the system.”





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