This paragraph (or sub-paragraphs) have been updated, added or deleted since publication of the 2019 edition. Any sub-paragraphs updated since the 2019 edition can be highlighted by clicking ‘Highlight updates’ below. The most recent updates to this publication were made on August 2021. See the summaries and schedules for each successive update from the Home page.
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
Standing Order No 150E is designed to allow suspensions resulting from Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme cases to engage the provisions of the Recall of MPs Act 2015. The Standing Order requires that when a sub-panel of the Independent Expert Panel makes a report recommending a suspension which, were it to be made by the Committee on Standards, would engage the provisions of the Act, the Committee on Standards must also make a report within three sitting days.8 The report is required to recommend an equal sanction to that of the sub-panel and which will run concurrently with it.
- 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
- 8. SO No 150E provides that if the Committee is unable to meet during the three sitting day period following the sending out of the IEP sub-panel report, the Chair shall make the report to the House if satisfied that the Independent Expert Panel's report has been sent to all Committee members.