Onasanya: How can an MP be recalled?

Fiona Onasanya arrives at court Credit: PA

Disgraced MP Fiona Onasanya has lost a challenge against her conviction for perverting the course of justice.

The Peterborough MP was jailed for three months at the Old Bailey in January and was released from prison after serving one month behind bars.

Now Commons speaker John Bercow has told MPs he will write to the relevant petition officer to confirm Peterborough MP Fiona Onasanya is subject to a recall petition.

Watch his announcement below:

What is a recall?According to the House of Commons Library, recall is a process whereby voters can trigger a special election to remove their MP outside of the scheduled election dates.

Recall systems generally involve two stages.Firstly, a petition will be launched calling for an elected representative tobe recalled. If this is supported by enough people it then leads to the person being removed from office and a new election being held.

Most cases of recall are triggered by wrongdoing by an elected individual orperceived unsuitability for office.

Recall of MPs Act passed in 2016 Credit: PA Images

Here is how that process could work:

Which law covers recall?

In the UK, the Recall of MPs Act 2015, which came into force in March 2016, allows for an MP to lose their seat and a by-election to be held if a local petition to recall them is successful.

How is recall triggered?

Recall only applies to MPs and a petition can only be started if any one ofthree conditions is met:

  • An MP is convicted of an offence and receives a custodial sentence of a year or less.

  • An MP is suspended from the Commons for at least 10 sitting days, or 14 calendar days.

  • An MP is convicted of providing false or misleading information for allowance claims under the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009.

The first and third conditions are only met once any legal appeals are dealtwith by the courts.

If an MP is convicted and receives a custodial sentence of more than a yearthey would automatically lose their seat.Members of the public cannot initiate a petition.

What happens if there is a general election?

A recall petition cannot be launched if a general election is due within thenext six months.If an early general election is called then any recall petition process will behalted. A recall petition will also be halted if an MP vacates their seat.

How does the recall petition process work?If one of the required conditions is met, the Speaker of the House of Commons gives notice to the petitions officer in the MP's constituency.The latter will be the returning officer.The petitions officer will decide where and when a petition can be signed, with a maximum of 10 locations chosen for in person signing in the constituency. The officer should designate the 10th working day after receiving the Speaker's notice as the day the petition opens, unless this is not practicable. A petition stays open for six weeks from the day it is opened. It would be fully funded by the Government.Signing places must be open Monday to Friday, for a minimum of 9am to 5pm.

Who can sign a petition?Anyone in the MP's constituency registered to vote in parliamentary elections on the day the Speaker's notice is received by the petitions officer can sign the petition. If there are multiple signing places, voters will be assigned a location similar to a polling station.Constituents will place signed sheets in a sealed ballot box, or can apply tosign by post or via a proxy.

What needs to happen for a petition to succeed?A petition requires 10% of the constituency's voters to support it to succeed.In Peterborough, this would be roughly 7,000 people.The result would be sent to the Speaker, the MP's seat would become vacant and a by-election held. The recalled MP is permitted to take part in the by-election.

Has a recall petition been used before?In July 2018, a recall petition was triggered when Democratic Unionist MP Ian Paisley Jnr was suspended from the Commons for 30 days after his failure to register two family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government.A recall petition in his North Antrim constituency failed after it was backedby only 9.4% of the electorate.