Voters 0 – MP’s 1

DemocratiaethSusan Elan Jones MP “afraid of her constituents”

Clwyd South MP Susan Elan Jones has been accused of being afraid of her constituents after voting against a motion in Parliament to give voters the power to recall MPs.

Parliament was debating a motion on Monday to recall MPs which would put power in voters’ hands by giving them the right to sack MPs if they lost confidence in them.

The idea of recalling your MP was developed after a succession of Parliamentary expenses scandals where some MPs were found guilty of making false claims, using public money to pay for second homes or paying for mortgage interests when the mortgage payments had already been completed. It would also tackle MPs who were using their privileged positions to make money from lobbyists for asking specific questions, amongst other corrupt practices. The recall would have been triggered by a petition signed by a percentage of the MP’s constituents.

The recall motion proposed that there would be a by-election if 10% of constituents sign a petition after the sitting MP is either sentenced to more than 12 months in jail, or banned from the Commons for more than 21 days. Many were concerned that this motion left too much power in the hands of the Standards Committee, made up of fellow MPs. An amended motion would have given more power to voters, with MP’s having to face a recall referendum if 5% of voters in a constituency sign a “notice of intent to recall” and 20% then sign a “recall petition”.  Susan Elan Jones MP was among those who voted against the amended motion to give more powers to the voters rather than a Parliamentary Committee, dubbed ‘Real Recall’, sparking the accusation that she was afraid of giving power to those that voted her into Parliament.

Mabon ap Gwynfor, Plaid Cymru Parliamentary Candidate for Clwyd South, said: “What is Susan Elan Jones afraid of? An MP is a servant of the people. We vote them in, and we should be allowed to petition for their removal at the earliest opportunity if they are found to be doing something wrong. It’s a basic principle in the work place that, if a staff member is guilty of wrongdoing, they can be dismissed. Why should MPs be treated any differently?

“The last few years have proven that Westminster isn’t working in the interest of the people of Wales, as we have been left behind languishing at the bottom of health and education tables, and one of the poorest countries in western Europe. By contrast, MPs wine and dine in subsidised bars and restaurants in Westminster and have seen an inflation-busting pay rise of 11% while ordinary workers have seen a real terms fall in their take-home money and VAT increased to 20%. The least they could do is give us the power to recall MPs and challenge them to justify their actions when they get it wrong. It seems Labour is afraid of scrutiny and afraid of being challenged.”

Proposing the amendment Zac Goldsmith MP, said, “Members will be able to decide if we want a genuine voter-led system of recall with tight caps on spending and a high enough threshold to prevent vexatious abuse; or if we want a bogus system of recall that is possible only in the narrowest of circumstances and with prior permission of this House. Given that under the Deputy Prime Minister’s current proposals just six Members in the past quarter of a century would have qualified even for the possibility of recall—and four of them resigned in any case—we can at least agree that the Bill in its current form is a waste of time, but it is worse than that. If enacted, it will confirm the suspisnouts_in_the_trough_3cion of many voters that politicians pretend to listen but then deceive. We are only having this debate because at a certain point before the last election the mainstream parties felt obliged to do something to address the increasingly strained relationship between people and power, so it would surely be a madness for us to legislate today on the assumption that our voters cannot be trusted.

“We had a good debate on Tuesday of last week and I listened closely to the concerns raised around the amendments that I and colleagues are sponsoring and, for context, I want briefly to recap the effect of the amendments. The process is effectively threefold. First, if 5% of the local electorate sign a notice of intent to recall, within a one-month time frame the returning officer would announce a formal recall petition. Secondly, it would take 20% of voters—14,000 or so—to sign the recall petition in person within an eight-week period to trigger a recall referendum. The referendum would be a simple yes or no—“Do you want your MP to be recalled; yes or no?” If more than 50% say yes, there would then be a by-election.”

General background: