6 JUNE 2023 | NEWS
A vote has been taken by MPs to suspend SNP MP Margaret Ferrier from the House of Commons for 30 days, by a substantial majority of 185 to 40.
Her suspension will commence as of tomorrow. She has said that she “deeply regretted” her actions, but has refused to stand down as an MP at the time of publication. She had previously appealed the judgment against her, but today’s vote has overturned this.
But if an MP is suspended from Parliament for 10 days or more, there is a provision for them to be recalled by their local constituency, if at least 10% of voters choose to call for it. This would amount to approximately 8,000 voters in Ms Ferrier’s constituency.
A by-election would then need to be held in Ms Ferrier’s constituency of Rutherglen and Hamilton West, which she won in 2019 with a majority of 5,230.
She has not always seen much support within her own party over the affair. Fellow SNP MP David Linden (Glasgow East) said: “There must now be a by-election, which the SNP has been calling for since Ms Ferrier’s Covid rule breach first came to light in 2020.”
Meanwhile, Scottish Conservative MSP Graham Simpson agreed that Ms Ferrier should stand down immediately, but added that “it looks as though she will brazenly continue taking her MP salary until the bitter end”.
Ms Ferrier has been subject to an investigation by the Commons Standards Committee, which concluded in March that she should be suspended. The matter relates to her attending Parliament to speak after testing positive for Covid on 26 September 2020, but then taking a train home to Glasgow in order to avoid self-isolating in a London hotel.
Accusing her of acting with “blatant and deliberate dishonest intent” and “a high degree of recklessness to the public and to colleagues and staff at the House of Commons”, the panel concluded: “This is not one momentary error of judgment. It is a sequence of events amounting to a deliberate course of dishonest behaviour.
“She acted selfishly, putting her own interests above the public interest. There could therefore be no lesser sanction for this conduct.”
A court had previously ordered her to complete 270 hours of community service after convicting her of “recklessly exposing the public to the risk of infection, illness and death”.
In anticipation of an upcoming by-election, the Scottish Labour candidate for the seat, Michael Shanks, has welcomed the suspension, saying it was a “disgrace” that Ms Ferrier had “dragged this process out for so long, leaving her constituents unrepresented in Parliament”. It is understood in Westminster that Scottish Labour is confident it can win this seat if a by-election is held.
Several senior or otherwise long-standing Conservative MPs voted against the motion held today in the Commons on Ms Ferrier’s suspension, including former Cabinet Ministers Jacob Rees-Mogg and David Davis. Former Conservative and now Reclaim MP Andrew Bridgen also joined them.
It is not the first time that a by-election has been held to replace an MP. In Peterborough, Labour MP Fiona Onasanya was recalled following a speeding conviction. In Brecon and Radnorshire, Conservative MP Chris Davies was convicted on two counts of falsifying expenses claims.
It is possible for a candidate to stand again even if they are recalled initially; this happened in Brecon and Radnorshire in 2019, but the seat was lost to the Liberal Democrats.
Any by-election is not anticipated to be held until the autumn. Meanwhile, local constituents will have a six-week window in which to sign a petition recommending that she be recalled from Parliament.
It is understood that Ms Ferrier has not responded to any media requests for comment.