Recall of MPs Act 2015

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Recall of MPs Act 2015
Act of Parliament
Long titleAn Act to make provision about the recall of members of the House of Commons; and for connected purposes.
Citation2015 c. 25
Introduced byNick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Territorial extent United Kingdom
(England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland)
Royal assent26 March 2015[1]
Commencement26 March 2015[2]
Status: Current legislation
History of passage through Parliament
Text of statute as originally enacted
Revised text of statute as amended

The Recall of MPs Act 2015 (c. 25) 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.[1][3]

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.


Before the passage of the act there were no mechanisms to recall Members of Parliament (MPs) in the UK. The Representation of the People Act 1981 disqualifies any person in jail for more than a year from being an MP, and thus automatically ejects an MP so jailed. MPs involved in scandals or convicted of lesser crimes could be expelled from their party and pressured to resign, but there was no mechanism to force the exit of an MP prior to a general election.

Supporters for introducing recall mechanisms included the pressure group 38 Degrees and the National Union of Students.[4][5] The UK government gave a commitment in the 2010 Coalition Agreement to bring into force a power of recall.[6] In the aftermath of the United Kingdom parliamentary expenses scandal, a number of MPs involved in wrongdoing resigned after related court cases—for example Eric Illsley, whose resignation caused the 2011 Barnsley Central by-election, and Denis MacShane, who caused the 2012 Rotherham by-election—were cases brought up by supporters of recall to allow voters to "sack" MPs who break the rules.[7][8][9]

In June 2012, the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee published its reports into the recall process, listing twenty conclusions and recommendations which included the views that "a system of full recall may deter MPs from taking decisions that are unpopular locally or unpopular in the short-term, but which are in the long-term national interest", "[w]e note that expulsion would not prevent the person concerned standing in the resulting by-election. We recommend that the Government abandon its plans to introduce a power of recall", and "We have not seen enough evidence to support the suggestion that it will increase public confidence in politics, and fear that the restricted form of recall proposed could even reduce confidence by creating expectations that are not fulfilled."[10]

In October 2014, during the final stage of debate on the bill in the Commons, opponents of the recall process pressed for assurances that voters could not begin recall petitions on the basis of views held or speeches made. Labour MP Geraint Davies said that misuse of the process would be an "intrinsic corruption of our democracy".[11] Labour MP Frank Dobson opposed recall as a threat to "hinder social progress" by "vested interests".[12]

Opponents of the process further worried that MPs "in fear" of being recalled would increase the number of "automatons and lobby fodder" in the Commons.[13]

Details of the act[edit]

Section 1 sets out the circumstances in which the Speaker of the House of Commons would trigger the recall process, namely:

Sections 7–11 outline the procedure whereby the petition is forwarded by the electoral returning officer for the constituency to the MP's constituents for ratification, approval by 10 per cent of the registered electors triggering the loss of the MP's seat and a by-election.

Section 15 confirms that the seat becomes vacant if the petition is successful, if it has not already been vacated by disqualification or death, or otherwise.

Sections 16–22 make further provisions, including outlawing forecasts of the outcome of active recall petitions which are based on statements from or surveys of potential signatories.[15]

Suspensions imposed by the Independent Expert Panel (established 2020) originally could not trigger recall. This oversight was addressed by an amendment to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons passed in October 2021 requiring the Committee on Standards to recommend suspension if asked to do so by the Panel.[16][17]

Recall procedure[edit]

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.[18] As with votes in elections, voters are able to sign via post or proxy.[19] Campaigning for or against recalling the MP is regulated by spending restrictions.[18]

The petition remains open for six weeks.[18] 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. If the petition is successful the seat becomes vacant and by-election procedures begin.[18] The recalled MP is permitted to stand in the by-election.

If the MP vacates the seat, or a general election is called, the recall is halted and the petition ends.[18]

Recall petitions made under the act[edit]

Parliament Petition MP Cause % signing petition Successful? Resulting by-election Elected MP
2017–2019 North Antrim, 2018 Ian Paisley Jr
(independent, suspended from the DUP during the petition period)
30-day suspension from the House 9.4% No
Peterborough, 2019 Fiona Onasanya
(independent, elected as Labour)
Custodial sentence of less than a year 27.6% Yes 2019 Peterborough by-election Lisa Forbes
Brecon and Radnorshire, 2019 Christopher Davies
Conviction for providing false or misleading expenses claims 18.9%[20] Yes 2019 Brecon and Radnorshire by-election Jane Dodds
(Liberal Democrats)

A recall petition was not triggered in the case of Rob Roberts' six-week House suspension in May 2021 for sexual misconduct, as this case was judged by the Independent Expert Panel rather than the Committee on Standards. A Standing Order passed in October 2021 amended the Act to cover such cases, but a vote on applying this revision retrospectively to Roberts failed.[21][16]

A recall petition could have been triggered in the case of Owen Paterson, who had been found by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to have breached lobbying rules, but the House of Commons voted to reject a proposed 30-day suspension in November 2021 after the government whipped its MPs to vote against the Standards Committee's report. The Government subsequently made a u-turn and proposed a new vote, but Paterson chose to resign before such a vote occurred.[22]

After Parliament directed the Committee of Privileges—which has the same MPs sitting upon it as the Committee on Standards—to investigate whether then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson had deliberately misled Parliament regarding his role in the Partygate scandal, the Speaker of the House, Lindsay Hoyle, confirmed that a qualifying suspension recommended by that Committee and approved by Parliament would trigger the recall process.[23]


  1. ^ MPs who receive a sentence longer than one year are automatically removed due to the Representation of the People Act 1981.
  2. ^ Any other Commons committee which deals with the standards of conduct – such as the Committee of Privileges – is treated as the Committee on Standards for the purposes of the Act.


  1. ^ a b "Bill stages — Recall of MPs Act 2015". Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
  2. ^ "Recall of MPs Act 2015". The Stationery Office. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
  3. ^ "Recall of MPs Act 2015 - Legislation PDF" (PDF). The Stationery Office. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
  5. ^ NUS launches "Right to Recall" campaign NUS
  6. ^ Impact Assessment Right to Recall
  7. ^ Voters to get right to sack 'bad apple' MPs as Labour and Lib Dems back stronger Recall powers The Daily Telegraph
  8. ^ Public could get right to sack misbehaving MPs The Daily Telegraph
  9. ^ Zac's Campaign for True Recall Zac Goldsmith MP
  10. ^ "Right to Recall MPs" PCRC Report June 2012
  11. ^ The good, the bad and the ugly in the Recall debate Conservative Home
  12. ^ Power to the People? This recall Bill will do no such thing The Guardian
  13. ^ Say No! to the recall of MPs Labour List
  14. ^ "Correspondence with Mr Speaker concerning the Recall of MPs Act 2015". Retrieved 5 March 2023.
  15. ^ "BBC - Editorial Guidelines - Editorial Guidelines". Retrieved 20 March 2019. There are automatic reporting restrictions in relation to recall petitions. They state that until the end of the last day of the signing period of the petition we must not publish / broadcast: Any statement relating to whether any person has signed the petition where that statement is (or might reasonably be taken to be) based on information given by that person; or Any forecast as to the result of the petition which is (or might reasonably be taken to be) based on information so given.
  16. ^ a b "MPs close loophole which stopped Rob Roberts facing by-election". ITV News. 19 October 2021. Retrieved 29 April 2022.
  17. ^ "Standing Orders of the House of Commons: Public Business 2021". Parliament of the United Kingdom. Rule 150E: IEP recommendations for sanctions and the Recall of MPs Act 2015. Retrieved 11 January 2023.
  18. ^ a b c d e Library, House of Commons (10 August 2018). "The first use of a 'recall petition' in the UK". House of Commons Library. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  19. ^ McCormack, Jayne (16 August 2018). "Ian Paisley recall petition opens". Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  20. ^ "Welsh Tory MP unseated after petition". BBC News. 21 June 2019. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  21. ^ "Commons suspends Tory MP Rob Roberts over sexual harassment". the Guardian. 27 May 2021. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  22. ^ Parker, George; Hughes, Laura; Cameron-Chileshe, Jasmine (4 November 2021). "Tory MP in sleaze row quits as Boris Johnson makes U-turn over standards reform". Financial Times.
  23. ^ "Partygate: Boris Johnson may face by-election if found to have misled MPs". BBC News. 21 July 2022. Retrieved 23 October 2022.

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