LONDON — The U.K.’s parliamentary authorities have for the first time opened a path to banning MPs who are facing serious criminal allegations from Westminster.
The House of Commons would be given the power to formally ban MPs charged with violent or sexual assault from the parliamentary estate, under plans being considered by the Commons’ managing body.
At present, MPs facing claims of sexual assault are expected to enter an informal agreement with the whips and Commons Speaker to keep away from parliament, but there is no means of enforcing it. Parliamentary staff, trade unions and victims’ rights campaigners have long argued this does not go far enough, but previous attempts to set up a formal bar have run aground.
Last year, Imran Ahmad Khan, a former Tory MP who was jailed for sexually assaulting a child, showed up in parliament while awaiting trial despite undertaking to keep away from the premises.
The House of Commons Commission will consult on the proposals before taking a decision early next year, according to the minutes of their latest meeting. Under the plan, MPs would also be barred from claiming travel expenses until the case against them is resolved.
In April, a cross-party group of MPs on the House of Commons procedure committee ruled out an inquiry into the matter, citing the difficulty of finding a suitable mechanism and the danger of breaking the confidentiality of investigations.
Procedural experts believe the proposed rule change would have to be approved by MPs but that it would not require legislation.
Mike Clancy, the general secretary of Prospect trade union, welcomed the move as “progress towards making parliament a workplace fit for the 21st century” but said it was “disappointing” that the Commission was unwilling to consider exclusion from the point of arrest.
Jenny Symmons, chair of the GMB branch of MPs’ staff, said it would be “a crucial step in safeguarding the parliamentary community and vulnerable members of the public.”