Nick Clegg: MPs who support equal marriage at risk under Goldsmith Recall Bill plan

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith’s proposals for the Recall Bill could threaten MPs with a history of supporting same-sex marriage, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has warned.

On Tuesday, MPs backed plans to allow themselves to be sacked using a “power of recall” if they are found guilty of serious wrongdoing.

The government said an MP should be unseated if 10% of voters sign a petition, after the MP is jailed or given a prolonged Commons ban.

The plans would require the imposition of a prison sentence of up to 12 months or a ban from the Commons lasting more than 21 sitting days before a petition could be set up.

Labour backed the Recall Bill, although Shadow Constitutional Reform Minister Stephen Twigg said his party would look to strengthen the legislation as it proceeded through Parliament.

He said: “We need a system that improves accountability and one that gives more power to the public to hold their representatives to account between elections. That, I think, is a matter of fairness.”

Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith has devised a rival plan, effectively allowing MPs to be recalled for a whole host of other reasons.

He told the Commons: “Under these (government) proposals it would still be possible for an MP to switch parties, to refuse to attend Parliament, to disappear off on holiday, to break every conceivable promise made before the election without qualifying for recall.

“And the public will discover at the very first scandal that they’ve been misled.”

But Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said Mr Goldsmith’s proposals “would lead to some MPs facing near constant threats of recall” on “controversial issues such as gay marriage, abortion, fox hunting or military action”.

In a letter sent to The Daily Telegraph, the Liberal Democrat leader wrote: “On principle, I don’t agree with the blueprint put forward by Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith.

“His is not the people’s recall, it’s the rich man’s recall. It would provide a field day for those with vested interests and big money who don’t like how an MP has voted on controversial issues such as gay marriage, abortion, fox hunting or military action. This would lead to some MPs facing near constant threats of recall.”

Meanwhile, Labour MP Chris Bryant said it would have been “perfectly legitimate” for some of his constituents to have demanded a parliamentary recall in 2003, after images of him posing in his underwear on Gaydar were published by the Mail on Sunday.

So far 68 MPs from all parties, including prominent Conservatives and Labour backbenchers as well as UKIP MP Douglas Carswell and Green MP Caroline Lucas, have backed Zac Goldsmith’s version of the Recall Bill.

Mr Goldsmith voted for same-sex marriage last year.