UK ban parliament entry for MPs arrested for sex offences

On Monday, new plans were greenlit that could bar Members of Parliament (MPs) from attending Parliament if they are arrested for serious sexual or violent offenses. Despite the government initially proposing that MPs only face exclusion if they are charged, the majority voted in favor of lowering the threshold to arrest, with 170 MPs supporting the change against 169 opposed—a razor-thin majority of one. This shift was hailed as a long-awaited victory for common sense by a union representing parliamentary workers.

However, concerns were raised by some MPs who argued that such ban of MP arrested for serious sexual or violent offenses is a measure might be unconstitutional and could potentially deny constituents their right to representation based solely on the decision of a committee. Presently, parliamentary authorities lack the authority to ban MPs accused of sexual misconduct, leading to situations where MPs voluntarily refrain from attending Parliament during investigations.

A bipartisan group of senior MPs collaborated on a plan to introduce new regulations, originally suggesting that a risk assessment be conducted to determine whether an MP should be barred from Parliament if arrested for suspicion of committing a violent or sexual offense. Commons leader Penny Mordaunt proposed an alternative focusing on those who had been formally charged—a significantly higher threshold.

The government revised its policy in response to feedback from MPs, recognizing the negative impact of depriving individuals of a voice in Parliament on their communities. Under the revised plan, a panel appointed by the Commons Speaker would conduct the risk assessment and decide on appropriate measures, including exclusion from Parliament or travel funds.

Liberal Democrat MP Wendy Chamberlain argued for aligning Parliament with other workplaces by advocating for the threshold to be set at arrest. She emphasized that arrest on suspicion does not occur solely on the basis of an allegation and highlighted the importance of prioritizing safeguarding measures.

Chamberlain’s proposal garnered support from opposition MPs and some Conservatives, including former Prime Minister Theresa May. Shadow Commons leader Lucy Powell deemed the policy “long overdue” and emphasized its necessity for safeguarding good working practices.

However, some MPs, including Conservative Dame Karen Bradley and former minister Jacob Rees-Mogg, argued for retaining the threshold at the point of charge, citing concerns about the severity of excluding MPs from the Commons and the potential constitutional implications.

The approval of these proposals was welcomed by Mike Clancy, general secretary of the Prospect union, who emphasized the need for prompt implementation to ensure equitable treatment for MPs accused of sexual or violent offenses and their colleagues in the workplace.

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