The public has the 'right' to elect racists and misogynists, according to a Tory MP

Conservative MP Desmond Swayne (Photo: PA Media)

According to a former Tory minister, voters have the right to elect racists and misogynists to Parliament.

Desmond Swayne expressed hope that his supporters would not elect people with such ideas. Still, he warned a planned modification to the standards system governing MPs' behavior would weaken the "principle of democracy."

The Commons Standards Committee has recommended that MPs adhere to the parliamentary code of conduct and "demonstrate anti-discriminatory attitudes and behaviors by promoting anti-racism, inclusion, and diversity."

Mr. Swayne, MP for New Forest West, told the Commons: "A debate in Government time would be extremely beneficial because several aspects of the report, such as the potential extension of an official's jurisdiction into what happens in lobbies and select committees, touch on Bill of Rights principles, which state that no act of Parliament may be questioned in any place or court other than Parliament itself."

"And the fact, the democratic ideal is undercut by the possibility of being obliged to adopt particular behaviors to promote certain attitudes.

"While I hope my constituents never elect a racist or misogynist, they do have the right to do so."

"I believe he demonstrates that there is much to debate in the report, and as I have previously stated, I believe it is critical that this House debates these issues," Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg responded.

"I would point out to him that there is no difference in the standing of a debate during Government time and a discussion during backbench business time on the House floor.

"However, the Backbench Business Committee's chairman is present. He will, I believe, hear loud and clear the requests for a debate on this matter before his committee meets.

"Of course, I'm open to discussing the matter with him to ensure that time is available."

Among the Committee on Standards' recommendations are the following:

– A new requirement for MPs is to have a written contract for any outside work, which makes it explicit that their duties cannot include lobbying ministers, fellow members, or public officials.

– Tightening rules to prevent MPs claiming they were acting to prevent a “seriously wrong” as a loophole for lobbying.

– Increasing from six to 12 months, during which lobbying is banned following receipt of payment from outside interest.

– Introducing a new “safe harbor” provision so MPs can be protected from investigation for potential breaches of the code of conduct if they seek out and follow the guidance of officials before taking up a role.

The emphasis on standards at Westminster comes in the wake of former Conservative minister Owen Paterson, who was found to have violated lobbying regulations and faced a 30-day ban from the Commons before resigning as an MP.

Publish : 2021-12-02 17:45:00

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