Politics

MPs arrested on suspicion of serious offences will be barred from parliament under new plans

The House of Commons has approved plans to exclude MPs from the parliamentary estate if they have been arrested on suspicion of a serious offence.

The move came despite the government putting forward a motion to recommend that a ban kicks in at the point of charge – a higher bar.

MPs voted to reverse moves to water down the measures on “risk-based exclusions” to ensure members can be excluded from the parliamentary estate at the point of arrest for serious sexual or violent offences.

That was the original recommendation put forward by the House of Commons Commission – but it was later revised by the government to raise the threshold for a potential ban to the point of charge.

In a surprise move, MPs tonight voted 170 to 169, a majority of one, in favour of amendment by Lib Dem MP Wendy Chamberlain and Labour MP Jess Phillips to reinstate the original intention of the policy.

The division list showed eight Conservative MPs voted in favour of the opposition amendment, including safeguarding minister Laura Farris, former prime minister Theresa May and backbench MP Theresa Villiers.

It means those who have been arrested on suspicion of a violent or sexual offence will banned from parliament, pending the approval of an independent panel.

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The exclusion policy was put forward following a number of incidents involving MPs in recent years. Currently, party whips decide if and when an MP accused of an offence should be prevented from attending the parliamentary estate.

During the debate that preceded the vote, several Labour MPs argued why they believed a ban from the estate should become effective from the point of arrest.

Shadow commons leader Lucy Powell argued the threshold for imposing a ban at the point of charge was too high, adding: “The threshold for police to charge someone with such offences is a very high one and would have only applied to one or two members in recent years.

“I still support this being triggered at arrest today and I know many across this House agree. It’s more appropriate for safeguarding and ensuring staff are able to feel safe and would be standard practice in other workplaces.”

Stella Creasy, the Labour MP for Walthamstow, cited the case of former police officer Wayne Couzens, who was sentenced to a whole-life term for the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard.

“When it came to the case of Wayne Couzens and the parliamentary protection police, we have now agreed that anybody accused of serious misconduct in the police be removed from the parliamentary estate – that’s accused, not even arrested,” she said.

“How do we square that circle that what we think is appropriate for the police isn’t appropriate for ourselves?”

The House of Commons Commission originally recommended that a risk assessment should take place on whether an MP should be prevented from attending the parliamentary estate if they were arrested on suspicion of committing a violent or sexual offence.

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