A public services union has welcomed the Committee on Standards’ proposal that MPs should potentially be barred from Parliament if arrested for a violent or sexual offence.
The FDA union, which represents some Parliamentary staff, criticised the lack of formal process to prevent MPs from attending the Westminster estate even if they have been accused of serious misconduct.
Parliamentary authorities recently launched a consultation on “precautionary exclusion”, which could restrict MPs’ access to the precinct if they have been charged with a violent or sexual offence.
In response to the House of Commons Commission’s consultation, the Standards Committee recommended that precautionary exclusion should be considered at the point of arrest, rather than when a parliamentarian is charged.
FDA national officer Jawad Raza said: “The FDA has long called for precautionary exclusion of MPs to be considered at the point of arrest. It’s reassuring to see that the Committee on Standards agrees.
“Carrying out a risk assessment at the point an MP is charged, as initially proposed by the House of Common Commission, is far too late and would put staff at unnecessary risk.”
In its report, published last week, the Standards Committee said: “The Commission’s proposed threshold (where a Member is charged with a violent or sexual offence) is too high.
“Indeed, it arguably prevents the process from being properly ‘precautionary’, since a formal charge would be likely to come at a relatively late stage.”
The current informal process of voluntary agreements with MPs to stay away is “inadequate” and not always honoured, the panel said.
But MPs banned from Parliament for precautionary reasons must still be able to vote by proxy or through electronic means, according to the committee, so they can carry out their constitutional duties and represent their constituents.
Mr Raza said: “As it currently stands, even if an MP is arrested for serious sexual offences, there is no way to prevent them from attending the Parliamentary estate.
“Relying on informal agreements between Whips, Parliamentary authorities and MPs clearly isn’t the best way to proceed, as these measures are completely unenforceable.”
The union called for the introduction of precautionary exclusion “without delay to protect staff”.