Peter Bone suspension: What is a recall petition and what happens next?

Conservative MP for Wellingborough Peter Bone
Credit: PA
Wellingborough MP Peter Bone has been suspended for six weeks. Credit: PA

The government face the possibility of another damaging by-election in the new year after MP Peter Bone was suspended over bullying and sexual misconduct.

The member for Wellingborough in Northamptonshire, who lost the Conservative whip last week, is not allowed in the Commons for six weeks after MPs voted in favour of the suspension on Wednesday.

The suspension comes after Parliament's Independent Expert Panel published its independent report, concluding he "committed many varied acts of bullying and one act of sexual misconduct" against a member of his staff more than 10 years ago - findings Mr Bone rejected as "false and untrue".

So how could this lead to a by-election - and what are the Tories' chances of winning it? ITV News explains.

MP Peter Bone who could potentially lose his seat in Northamptonshire if a by-election is held. Credit: PA Credit: PA

What is a recall petition?

The Recall of MPs Act was brought in by Parliament in March 2016.

It is only triggered if an MP is found guilty of wrongdoing, fulfilling certain criteria - including being suspended for more than 10 days.

That means what is known as a recall petition is opened - a document which proposes the MP is "recalled" to Parliament to face the electorate again in a by-election.

A petition will only be successful if at least one in 10 voters in the MP's constituency sign it - around 8,000 people in Wellingborough.

That will result in the MP leaving their seat, initiating a by-election.

When is the recall petition happening in Wellingborough?

The recall petition in the Wellingborough constituency is opening on Wednesday, 8 November and closes on Tuesday, 19 December, according to North Northamptonshire Council.

Only people registered to vote can take part and can sign it in person, by post or by proxy.

New voter ID requirements will apply to the recall petition-signing process.

The council is sending details of locations where people can sign the petition.

If at least 10% of eligible voters have signed the petition it is successful meaning Mr Bone will leave his seat.

This takes place after the Speaker of the House of Commons knows the outcome of the petition.

If fewer than 10% of people vote in favour the petition is unsuccessful and Mr Bone remains in post.

Signatures will be counted as soon possible once the signing period ends – and within 24 hours of the recall petition period closing.

The outcome will be announced to the public either way.

If the petition is successful, it will trigger a by-election.

How many times have recall petitions and by-elections been triggered?

There have been three incidents when a successful recall petition and by-election have been enacted since 2016.

These include Peterborough Labour MP Fiona Onasanya in 2019 after she received a three-month custodial sentence.

Former Peterborough MP Fiona Onasanya. Credit: PA Credit: PA

Constituents voted in another Labour MP - Lisa Forbes - after a by-election.

The two other MPs who lost their seat through a recall petition and by-election were Conservative Christopher Davies, who represented Brecon and Radnorshire, in 2019, and former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier, who represented Rutherglein and Hamilton West until this year.

When could a by-election be held?

If the recall petition is successful, a by-election date for the Wellingborough seat will be decided by the Conservative Party.

North Northamptonshire Council said it is likely a by-election would be held in late January/early February.

The government will be keen to avoid a fresh vote if at all possible, after a pair of bruising defeats in recent days, in which huge Tory majorities were overturned by voters.

Just a week ago voters took to the polls in Mid-Bedfordshire after former Conservative cabinet minister Nadine Dorries resigned.

Alistair Strathern, winner of Mid Bedfordshire by-election. Credit: ITV News Anglia Credit: ITV News Anglia

It was won by Labour's Alistair Strathern.

Mr Bone could stand in the by-election in an attempt to regain his former seat.

What would a by-election mean for the Conservative Party?

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden admitted a potential by-election would be "challenging" for the party.

Mr Bone has held the Wellingborough seat since 2005 and and kept it for the Tories in the last general in 2019 with a majority of 18,540.

He can still work as an MP during the six-week suspension period but cannot do the job, which earns around £86,000 a year, in Westminster.

Mr Dowden said: "Peter Bone is subject to a six-week suspension and there are further steps, so we are not in a situation right now that there is going to be a by-election.

"That is up to the people of Peter Bone’s constituency, and of course any by-election for a government that has been in power for 13 years is always going to be challenging.

"If there is a by-election, and it is a very big ‘if’, then we will go out and make our case.

On whether the government thought it would be defeated, he added: "I’m not saying we are going to lose it at all — I’m saying that we will go out there and make our case very robustly."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know