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Peterborough MP recall petition set to cost £500,000

The recall petition in Peterborough is to run from 19 March until 1 May 2019. Credit: Niall Carson/PA Archive/PA Images

The first recall petition in England is to be launched in Peterborough after the city's MP was jailed for perverting the course of justice. It could lead to a by-election if 10% of voters in the constituency sign the petition.

Peterborough City Council says the cost of running the six-week operation will be £500,000 and the bill will fully funded by the Government.

The recall petition was called by the House of Commons Speaker John Bercow after the serving Peterborough MP Fiona Onasanya was convicted of perverting the course of justice and jailed for three months.

Ms Onasanya was elected as a Labour MP in June 2017 but was expelled from the party following her conviction and now sits as an Independent MP. She has since lost an appeal against conviction.

The recall process is a relatively new procedure which is triggered if an MP is jailed for up to a year in prison. For jail sentences of a year or longer, an MP would be automatically expelled from the House of Commons and a new election called.

Fiona Onasanya has been the MP for Peterborough since 2017. Credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire/PA Images

"This is the first time that a recall petition has been held in England and Wales and we have just ten working days to set up the process and make electors aware of their right to sign and how they can do so.

"We have planned carefully for this recall petition over a number of weeks in order to be ready to run the process efficiently and effectively."

– Gillian Beasley, Chief Executive, Peterborough City Council
A sample of the petition sign sheet used in North Antrim in Northern Ireland in August 2018. Credit: Niall Carson/PA Archive/PA Images

The recall petition will be open for six weeks with voters able to visit ten locations to sign it.

Residents who are parliamentary electors will receive a letter about the recall petition and where they can attend to sign. Each elector will be allocated a signing station.

The petition will be open for signing from 7am on Tuesday 19 March until 5pm on Wednesday 1 May 2019

The signing locations are:

  • Werrington Library, Staniland Way, Werrington
  • Bretton Library, The Cresset, Rightwell, Bretton
  • St Luke's Church on Mayor's Walk, West Town
  • Peterborough Town Hall, Bridge Street
  • East Community Centre, Padholme Road
  • Dogsthorpe Library, Central Avenue, Dogsthorpe
  • Eye Youth and Community Centre, Crowland Road, Eye
  • Bedford Hall in Station Road, Thorney
  • The Bull public house in Guntons Road, Newborough
  • Honeyhill Children's Centre, Chadburn, Paston
The shaded area indicates the Peterborough parliamentary constituency. Credit: Ordnance Survey Election Maps

Voters who are aged 18 or over or who have their 18th birthday before the 1 May 2019 and are registered to voter in the Peterborough parliamentary constituency will be entitled to sign to the recall petition.

Peterborough City Council says the number of voters is 69,673 and 6,967 would have to sign the recall petition for it to be successful. If is successful, Fiona Onasanya would no longer be an MP and there would be a by-election, probably in June. Ms Onasanya would be able to stand in that by-election

Voters can apply to sign the petition by post until Monday 15 April 2019 or apply to appoint a proxy to sign on their behalf by Wednesday 24 April 2019.

The Peterborough parliamentary constituency is a different area to the Peterborough City Council area so not everyone in Peterborough will be entitled to sign the petition.

Opening times for petition signing locations

  • Monday 9am to 5pm (except Easter Monday)
  • Tuesday 7am to 5pm
  • Wednesday 9am to 5pm
  • Thursday 9am to 10pm
  • Friday 9am to 5pm (except Good Friday)

The recall process has been used only once before since it became law in 2015. That was in Northern Ireland where it failed to gain enough support to force a by-election.

It is expected that result of the petition in Peterborough will be declared on Wednesday 1 May or Thursday 2 May.