The Recall of MPs Act 2015 is an act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that makes provision for constituents to be able to recall their Member of Parliament (MP) and call a by-election. It received royal assent on 26 March 2015 after being introduced on 11 September 2014.
Unlike recall procedures in some other countries, the act does not allow constituents to initiate proceedings. Instead, proceedings are initiated only if an MP is found guilty of a wrongdoing that fulfils certain criteria. This petition is successful if at least one in ten voters in the constituency sign. Successful petitions force the recalled MP to vacate the seat, resulting in a by-election.
To date, three petitions have been made under the act; two of these received sufficient signatures to trigger a by-election.
the Speaker of the House of Commons would trigger the recall process, namely:
A custodial prison sentence of a year or less (longer sentences automatically disqualify MPs without need for a petition due to the Representation of the People Act 1981);
Suspension from the House of at least 10 sitting days or 14 calendar days, following a report by the Committee on Standards;
A conviction for providing false or misleading expenses claims.
Once one of the conditions outlined in the act is fulfilled, the Speaker informs the petitions officer of the constituency (in most cases this would be the returning officer or acting returning officer). The petitions officer is then required to make the practical arrangements for the petition so as to open the proceedings within ten working days after the Speaker's notification. This involves selecting up to ten signing locations where petitioners can sign in person, these function in a similar manner to election polling stations. As with votes in elections, voters are able to sign via post or proxy. Campaigning for or against recalling the MP is regulated by spending restrictions.
The petition remains open for six weeks. No ongoing tally is reported by the petitions officer and it is not revealed if the required threshold of 10 per cent of eligible voters threshold has been reached until the close of the petition period. During the petition period the MP remains in office. The petition is successful if the required threshold of 10 per cent of eligible voters threshold has been reached the seat then becomes vacant and by-election procedures begin.
The Recall of MPs Act 2015 is a law which was designed by MPs not to be used. Yet so far it has been used to recall of the former Labour MP for Peterborough Fiona Onasanya who did nor run in the subsequent by election .
In July 2018 then Labour MP Fiona Onsanya was charged with perverting the course of justice in relation to two incidents of speeding. It was alleged that she had lied to the police about who driving in relation to two speeding tickets. In December 2018 Onasanya was found guilty but appealed the verdict. In January 2019 she was sentenced to three months imprisonment. Following the failure of her appeal, the recall process was initiated. This petition had the support of the Labour Party who had already removed the whip from Onasanya. The recall petition was opened on 19th March 2019 and comfortably reached the 10% threshold with 27.6% of constituents signing the recall petition. Onasanya was therefore recalled and replaced by Lisa Forbes who won the subsequent by-election as Labour’s candidate.
A second recall process against Conservative MP Chris Davies resulted in him losing the seat in a by election. A third, in Antrim North, was unsuccessful against the DUP’s Ian Paisley in 2018. In February 2019 then Conservative MP Christopher Davies was charged with two accounts of making false expense claims. In April 2019 he was convicted and given a community order. As he had been convicted of an offence relating to false expenses claims, a recall petition was initiated. A total of 19% of constituents signed the petition and Davies was subsequently removed as an MP. Bizarrely, Davies retained the whip and ran as the Conservative candidate in the subsequent by-election. However, he lost out to Jane Dodds of the Liberal Democrats by 1,400 votes.
A fourth petition would have been triggered in October 2019. The then MP for Leicester East, Keith Vaz, was suspended from the service of the House for six months following on from a report and recommended sanction from the Committee on Standards. However, the early general election of December 2019 meant that the Speaker was not required to issue the notice of a petition.