MPs close loophole which stopped Rob Roberts facing by-election over sexual misconduct claims

MPs voted to close a loophole that prevented a possible by-election being triggered when Delyn MP Rob Roberts was suspended over sexual misconduct claims.

In May, MPs approved a motion to suspend Mr Roberts from the Commons for six weeks after he was accused of making repeated unwanted advances to a member of staff.

He also lost the Tory whip.

But Mr Roberts did not face the prospect of losing his seat given the way recall laws were drawn up.

His sanction was proposed by the panel set up in 2020 to deal with cases raised under the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme.

But the Recall of Parliament Act, passed in 2015, only allowed the prospect of a by-election for sanctions imposed on the recommendation of the Commons Committee on Standards.

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg moved a motion to close the loophole, which was approved.

Jacob Rees-Mogg was one of the MPs to back the change.

Labour's attempt to ensure the change could retrospectively apply to Independent MP Mr Roberts was rejected by 297 votes to 213, majority 84.

Mr Roberts was among those to vote against the amendment - thereby opposing the prospect of himself facing a by-election.

Speaking during the debate in the Commons, SNP Commons leader Pete said: "There's something that's not been addressed yet and I think it's the next thing that will be coming our way.

"Those Members of Parliament who are under investigation for the most serious of transgressions against members of staff of this House are still able to access the parliamentary estate and go around their business as normal.

"I think that's something we're going to have to look at in the future - whether somebody who is under investigation for the most serious of offences has access to the estate."

Conservative former minister Sir Edward Leigh intervened to ask: "What about the principle that you're innocent until proven guilty?"

Mr Wishart replied: "I think that's a very good principle and one that underpins nearly everything we do within this House and throughout the legal systems of all our jurisdictions across the United Kingdom.

"But it doesn't apply in all the other workplaces throughout the United Kingdom.

"If somebody has been identified as a transgressor in the most serious way, that person won't have access to the workplace in the way that can still happen in this House.

"I've discussed this with staff unions and the House has discussed it with several members of staff and I know there is still huge concern about all of this, and I know this is something they're looking to bring forward to us in order for this House to take a view on and in order to try to resolve to their satisfaction.

"I think this is an issue we're going to have to confront as it goes forward."

Labour MP Jess Phillips (Birmingham Yardley) said a vulnerable person would not be able to bring their problems to their MP if they were known to have previously exploited vulnerability.

Addressing the argument that making the change included in the Labour amendment could be bad for victims who come forward, Ms Phillips said she has spoken to "almost every single complainant in every single case in this House" and that "it is not something I have ever heard echoed by any of them, in fact the exact opposite. The appalling feeling of people who have come forward that you just get away with it".

She added: "Anyone who had read those reports and thinks that they would send one of their most vulnerable constituents into a surgery in Delyn tonight hasn't read the report."

Addressing the need for the change to apply retrospectively, she said: "The reality is that if you are vulnerable you are not going to come forward to somebody who has used vulnerabilities for their own ends."

Mr Rees-Mogg, arguing against the Labour amendment, said: "That system provided for a penalty that was imposed. That penalty was imposed by an independent body. And that is justice. And one may then change it for the future."

Responding to Ms Phillips, he said: "On this occasion, justice must trump anger."