11.31Although suspension from the service of the House of Commons is now prescribed under Standing Order No 44 for Members who have disregarded the authority of the Chair or abused the rules of the House (see paras 21.50–21.52 ), such a disciplinary power already existed under ancient usage.1
Suspensions may also be carried out by specific order of the House. Such suspensions most frequently follow reports by select committees, most notably the Committee on Standards, in respect of allegations made against the Member,2 and for conduct falling below the standards the House was entitled to expect,3 but there have also been suspensions in respect of the terms of a letter addressed by a Member to the Speaker and of his conduct in the House on preceding days;4 for publishing a letter reflecting on the Speaker's conduct in the Chair;5 and for damaging the Mace (after the rising of the House) and conduct towards the Chair on a preceding day.6 The House may also suspend a Member following a report from the Independent Expert Panel.6A
The House may trigger the provisions of the Recall of MPs Act 2015 by imposing a period of suspension of 10 sitting days or more, or of over 14 days, if sitting days are not specified, following a report from the Committee on Standards. In such cases the seat is vacated if at least 10 per cent of those on the Electoral Register of the constituency concerned sign a recall petition.7
- 1. There are a number of cases of such suspensions for varying periods in the seventeenth century (CJ (1642–44) 128, 302; ibid (1648–51) 123; ibid (1661–67) 289; ibid (1667–87) 120, 156; ibid (1688–93) 846). Although there had been no cases since 1692, the Speaker ruled in 1877 that ‘any Member persistently and wilfully obstructing public business without just and reasonable cause is guilty of a contempt of this House, and is liable to punishment, whether by censure, suspension from the service of the House or commitment, according to the judgment of the House’ (Parl Deb (1877) 235, c 1814).
- 2. CJ (1989–90) 227; HC Deb (1989–90) 168, c 889 ff; and HC 135 (1989–90).
- 3. CJ (1994–95) 286; HC Deb (1994–95) 258, c 350 ff; and HC 351 (1994–95).
- 4. CJ (1890–91) 481.
- 5. CJ (1911) 37.
- 6. CJ (1987–88) 463; HC Deb (1987–88) 131, cc 680–683, 929–50.
- 6A. See para 5.23.
- 7. In the first such recall petition, the threshold was not reached, 9.4% of the electorate having signed the petition; see Committee on Standards, Third Report of Session 2017-19, Ian Paisley, HC 1397; Votes and Proceedings, 24 July 2018