LONDON — MPs accused of serious criminal offenses could be banned from parliament under proposals due to be put before the House of Commons next month.
The plan would see both MPs and members of the House of Lords who are accused of a criminal offense face formal risk assessments to consider whether they pose a threat to other people working on the parliamentary estate.
These would be conducted by HR and other professionals, who would then make a recommendation to an “adjudication panel” of senior parliamentarians such as the deputy speakers of each house.
The panel would rule on whether to accept or reject that risk assessment — and, if a finding that an MP or peer posed a risk was accepted, they would be barred from Westminster until the case against them was concluded.
The risk assessment would be triggered once a member of parliament was reported by police to the authorities of either house of parliament.
The proposals come amid mounting concern over errant MPs, following a number of high-profile cases in which parliamentarians accused of serious offenses, including rape and sexual assault, were permitted to continue coming into work on the parliamentary estate.
A parliamentary official close to the process, granted anonymity due to the sensitivity of the discussions, told POLITICO that it would be a decision for the police when to report an MP or peer to the parliamentary authorities. In the past, this has usually happened at the point of arrest, although sometimes not until an individual was charged.
Were an individual deemed not to be a risk after being arrested, another assessment would be carried out if they then went on to be charged with a criminal offense.
There has been squeamishness among many parliamentarians over the prospect of excluding elected officials without any input from their constituents. However, trade unions representing parliamentary staff say such a move is necessary to create a safe environment for the thousands of workers on the Westminster estate.
MPs are expected to be invited to vote on the plan, which would cover parliamentarians accused of “violent or sexual offenses,” in mid-June, the same official quoted above said, and come into force before the summer recess.
The proposals have been drawn up following a consultation by the House of Commons Commission, the body of senior MPs which oversees the working of the Commons, and will now be shared with its counterpart in the House of Lords. The official said that while there was “broad agreement” to the plans from the cross-party commission, they remain a “moveable feast” until signed off by the Lords Commission.
If accepted by the Lords Commission, a report setting out the plans will be put before both Houses, with a debate penciled in for June 12.
A spokesperson for the House of Commons said: “Following widespread consultation with groups across parliament, the House of Commons Commission have agreed to publish proposals around risk-based exclusions of members under criminal investigation for violent or sexual offences. These exclusions will apply to the parliamentary estate and parliamentary-funded travel.
“The proposals are currently being finalized by the Commission, who are engaging with the House of Lords, and will be published in due course. These proposals will then be a matter for the House to decide on, with a vote to follow their publication.”
The Commission had originally proposed carrying out risk assessments only once an MP was charged with a crime, but following the consultation, it is now considering conducting them at an earlier point in an investigation, including on arrest.
In the last six years, two MPs have been convicted of sexual assault and one of harassment with threats of violence. Others had investigations into their conduct dropped or were found not guilty.
The Commission said that while a number of MPs subject to investigation had agreed to stay away from parliament during a police inquiry, some had not abided by their promise.