A proper recall bill could have saved former Norwich MP Ian Gibson - UKIP MP claims
PUBLISHED: 15:51 21 October 2014 | UPDATED: 16:19 21 October 2014
Former Norwich MP Ian Gibson would have kept his seat during the expenses scandal if there had been a proper recall mechanism in place, UK Independence Party MP Douglas Carswell has claimed.
The University of East Anglia graduate said Dr Gibson had been judged by his party whips to be guilty - but if it had been put to the people of Norwich, he would have been “exonerated”.
Dr Gibson, who was MP for Norwich North between 1997 and 2009, was caught up in the expenses scandal and resigned as an MP after being barred from standing as a Labour candidate at the 2010 general election by the party’s “star chamber”
In a debate into a bill to provide more powers to voters to get rid of their MP, Mr Carswell, who has known Dr Gibson for over 20 years, said he was a “good and decent” man.
“More to the point, I know the people of Norwich, a city I know well, know what a good and decent man he is,” Mr Carswell told the House of Commons.
“Yet he was thrown to the wolves by the whips at the height of the expenses scandal, after a couple of awkward headlines. He was judged by his party whips to be guilty. But perhaps his real guilt was to fail to sign on someone’s nomination papers,” he said.
Mr Carswell claimed that had there been a “proper” recall mechanism in place, he was “absolutely certain” Dr Gibson would have been “exonerated by people who knew him best - the Norwich voters”.
But Tory MP Richard Drax said that MPs who had been involved in the expenses scandal should have resigned as a matter of honour.
Under current rules, MPs must leave parliament if they are given a prison sentence of more than 12 months. But the Government has put forward to new law which would mean that an MP would only face a petition to go if they were given a ban from the Commons by a committee, including MPs, lasting more than 21 sitting days.
North-West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham, who also spoke in the debate in the House of Commons, warned that a “distinction between failure of conduct and professional judgement” had to been drawn. He claimed that had he spoken out in favour of the plans for the King’s Lynn incinerator, which were opposed by 65,000 people in West Norfolk, he could have been “vulnerable to a recall bill cast too widely”.
“Had I been against then their recourse would have been to kick me out at the next election,” he said. “If I had gone against 65,000 people in my consituency, does he not agree with me I would have been vulnerable to a recall bill cast too widely?,” he asked Mr Carswell in the debate.