Eight MPs who risked recall petitions after breaking Commons rules since 2019

Rishi Sunak faces the prospect of yet another by-election after a recommendation to suspend Blackpool South MP Scott Benton from the Commons was upheld by an independent panel on Tuesday.

The 35-day suspension, which is likely to be approved by MPs in the coming days, is well in excess of the 10-day threshold that triggers a recall petition and potentially a by-election.

Seven MPs have already received suspensions of more than 10 days since the last election in 2019, although only two have faced recall petitions.

Below, the PA news agency looks at the cases of those MPs judged to have deserved a suspension of more than 10 days.

– Rob Roberts, Conservative, Delyn

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Rob Roberts avoided a recall petition thanks to a now-closed loophole in the rules. (David Woolfall/UK Parliament)

In Mr Roberts’ case, it was an independent panel that found he was guilty of “significant” misconduct after he made “repeated and unwanted sexual advances” towards a man.

Parliament has since closed the loophole that meant there was no recall petition for Mr Roberts, who remains an MP and sits as an independent.

– Owen Paterson, Conservative, North Shropshire

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Former cabinet minister Owen Paterson quit before his 30-day suspension for paid lobbying was approved. (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The Standards Committee recommended he be suspended from the Commons for 30 days and, after initially attempting to overturn the decision, the Government backed down in the face of public outcry.

Mr Paterson, however, resigned before MPs approved his suspension, meaning no recall petition took place.

– Christian Matheson, Labour, City of Chester

Christian Matheson resigned in October 2022 after an investigation by Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme upheld complaints of “serious sexual misconduct” against him and recommended he be suspended from the Commons for four weeks.

The Labour MP maintained the allegations were “untrue”, but the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner found he had made “unwanted and unwelcome sexual advances” towards a former member of his staff.

– Margaret Ferrier, SNP, Rutherglen and Hamilton West

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Margaret Ferrier was successfully recalled after she was suspended for breaching Covid rules (Parliament TV)

Ms Ferrier had previously been found guilty of breaching pandemic regulations in September 2020 by travelling from London to Scotland by train despite testing positive for Covid-19.

Following her conviction in August 2022, the Standards Committee recommended she be suspended, triggering a recall petition that eventually saw almost 15% of her constituents demand a by-election. She did not stand in the subsequent contest, which was won by Labour’s Michael Shanks.

– Boris Johnson, Conservative, Uxbridge and South Ruislip

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Former prime minister Boris Johnson quit Parliament shortly before publication of a report finding him guilty of misleading the Commons (Victoria Jones/PA)

The committee recommended a suspension of 90 days, finding he had not only misled Parliament but had also been “complicit” in a “campaign of abuse and attempted intimidation of the committee”.

If he had not resigned, Mr Johnson would have faced the second-longest suspension ever recommended by the Standards Committee, second only to the six-month sanction recommended for Keith Vaz.

– Chris Pincher, Conservative, Tamworth

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Chris Pincher resigned rather than face a recall petition after his appeal against an eight-week suspension failed. (Aaron Chown/PA)

The Standards Committee had recommended suspending the MP, whose misconduct also brought about the downfall of Boris Johnson, for eight weeks.

Mr Pincher appealed the decision, but quit after his appeal was dismissed and before the Commons could vote on the proposed suspension.

– Peter Bone, Conservative, Wellingborough

Peter Bone suspension recommendation
Peter Bone became the second MP recalled since 2019 after an investigation found he had bullied a former member of his staff. (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Mr Bone was suspended from the party following publication of the report in October 2023, but remained an MP until the recall petition was complete.

His partner, Helen Harrison, contested the subsequent Wellingborough by-election for the Conservatives, but was defeated by Labour’s Gen Kitchen.

– Scott Benton, Conservative, Blackpool South

Scott Benton’s attempt to overturn a recommended 35-day sanction after he was caught in a lobbying sting has failed, making a recall petition in his seat all but certain.

The Blackpool South MP was filmed by journalists from the Times offering to lobby ministers and table parliamentary questions on behalf of gambling investors.

If his suspension is approved by MPs, which is expected to be a formality, he will face a recall petition and a potential by-election in the spring.

– Others

Leicester East’s Claudia Webbe avoided facing a recall petition after her 10-week suspended prison sentence for harassment was reduced on appeal to a non-custodial sentence in May 2022.

Ms Webbe, who was elected as a Labour MP, continues to sit as an independent.

Imran Ahmad Khan, Conservative MP for Wakefield, also avoided expulsion by resigning following his April 2022 conviction for sexually assaulting a teenage boy. He was subsequently jailed for 18 months.

Custodial prison sentences of any length, even if suspended, automatically trigger recall petitions, although sentences of more than a year mean an MP is automatically expelled from the House under separate legislation.

Other MPs have quit while investigations into them were ongoing, including Labour MP for Hartlepool Mike Hill, and Conservative David Warburton. Fellow Tory Neil Parish resigned before an investigation could even be launched into allegations he had been watching pornography in the Commons chamber.

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