Rishi Sunak Urged to Enact Stricter Rules: Sexual Offenders Barred from MP Candidacy Ahead of Next Election

credit: thequint

London (Parliament Politic Magazine) – Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faces pressure to implement regulations barring sexual offenders from standing as MPs amid growing misconduct concerns.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been demanded to push through new regulations to block anyone convicted of a sexual offense from standing to be an MP before the next election.

At least six MPs have lost their seats because of apparent sexual misconduct since the 2019 general election, and 10 MPs have been discontinued from their parties pending investigations.

While all political parties have their policies for screening MP candidates, politicians and unions believe standard rules to block relevant candidates will make it more comfortable to “weed out the bad apples”.

A former minister has said: “I can’t believe this has to become formal policy, but history shows how bad the working environment in Westminster has become for this to be needed. Working standards for people on the estate are at a pretty low bar.”

The Prospect union expressed that Sunak should introduce the efforts before the next election, as well as accelerate the timetable in risk-based exclusion actions. “If they won’t, Labour should do so as a matter of urgency if they win the next general election,” stated Mike Clancy, general secretary of the union.

It comes as the Scottish parliament is anticipated to vote through rules to block anyone convicted of a sexual offense and matter to a restriction order from standing to be an MSP or as a councilor.

Ministers in Edinburgh issued plans last year to protect council elections and stated they believed it was logical to extend these controls to nominees for Holyrood, which has 129 MSPs, at the same time.

Like councilors, MSPs were in a function of power and authority and often dealt with vulnerable constituents, an official briefing paper stated. The controls are due to be incorporated in the new Scottish elections (representation and reform) bill presented last month.

“The roots of this move are grounded in both protecting the public in personal encounters with elected representatives and also a more general reputational concern based on trust and confidence,” the briefing paper stated.

While no MSP at Holyrood has been imprisoned for sexual offenses, and none have been indicted, there have been a series of debates over sexual misconduct by MSPs, with some losing ministerial posts.

Scottish ministers noted that the current rules let people stand for Holyrood if they were detained for less than a year: that could permit some sex offenders to do so. The rules for council elections are harder, barring anyone with a penalty of three months or greater standing for election.

A prohibition on sex offenders standing in council elections, including mayoral elections, came into exercise across England in 2022 and Wales in 2021, when a comparable ban on sex offenders standing for the Senedd in Cardiff came into force.

There is no specific criterion for sex offenders standing for councils in Northern Ireland, other than a covering ban on anyone with recent prison penalties of three months or more. No specific standard is in place for Stormont elections as its elections are controlled by Westminster and are similar to those for the Commons.

In December, the House of Commons Commission issued proposals for a “risk-based exclusion policy” to block MPs who have been arrested for fierce or sexual offenses from reaching the parliamentary estate.

But no policy prevents anyone convicted of a sexual offense from becoming an MP.

Sandy Brindley, the chief executive of Rape Crisis Scotland, stated: “Constituents should have the same protections about MPs as they would any other elected representative, across the whole of the UK. It is the least that constituents should be able to expect, but it’s quite astonishing it isn’t in place already.”

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The Liberal Democrats expressed they would “carefully consider proposals in this area, including bringing the rules for parliamentary candidates in line with those that exist already for those standing to be local councilors”.

Beth Malcolm

Beth Malcolm is Scottish based Journalist at Heriot-Watt University studying French and British Sign Language. She is originally from the north west of England but is living in Edinburgh to complete her studies.