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Recall powers for the people or for Parliament?

nick cowen, 21 March 2012

The Commons Select Committee on Political and Constitutional Reform is currently considering the introduction of recall powers against MPs who engage in serious wrongdoing. In response to a proposal that Parliament or a committee of MPs be given the power to initiate a recall petition of one of their colleagues, I warned:

There is a risk that a recall petition will be wielded (or avoided) on the basis of political considerations rather than individual MP behaviour. The key problem here is that a fair process must have controls both on an affirmative decision to trigger a petition, and a decision not to trigger a petition when serious wrongdoing has taken place. This is in a context where the agents responsible for the decision will feel significant, perhaps overwhelming, pressure to be partial to allies or potential allies in Parliament, especially those who might be able to help or harm their career progression.

My full written response to the Government’s draft recall proposal can be read here. Total Recall (also available as a PDF) provides a more detailed account of how direct democratic mechanisms in the US help to hold legislators to account.


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