UKIP MP Douglas Carswell backs former Norwich MP Ian Gibson over expenses scandal
- Credit: PA
Former Norwich MP Ian Gibson would have kept his seat during the expenses scandal if there had been a proper recall mechanism in place, the UK Independence Party's newest MP has claimed.
Douglas Carswell said Dr Gibson had been judged by his party whips to be guilty – but if it had been put to the people of Norwich, he would have been 'exonerated'.
The MP for Norwich North between 1997 and 2009 was caught up in the expenses scandal and resigned as an MP after being barred from standing as a Labour candidate at the 2010 general election by the party's 'star chamber'.
In a debate into a bill to provide more powers to voters to get rid of their MP, Mr Carswell, a University of East Anglia graduate who said he had known Dr Gibson for more than 20 years, said: 'I know the people of Norwich – a city I know well – and I know what a good and decent man he [Dr Gibson] is.'
He claimed that the former Labour MP had been 'thrown to the wolves by the whips at the height of the expenses scandal, after a couple of awkward headlines'.
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'He was judged by his party whips to be guilty. But perhaps his real guilt was to fail to sign on someone's nomination papers,' Mr Carswell said.
Mr Carswell added that had there been a 'proper' recall mechanism in place, he was 'absolutely certain' Dr Gibson would have been 'exonerated by people who knew him best – the Norwich voters'.
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But Tory MP Richard Drax said that MPs who had been involved in the expenses scandal should have resigned anyway as a matter of honour.
Under current rules, MPs must leave parliament if they are given a prison sentence of more than 12 months.
But the government has put forward to new law which would mean that an MP would only face a petition to go if they were given a ban from the Commons by a committee, including MPs, lasting more than 21 sitting days.
North-West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham, who also spoke in the debate in the House of Commons, warned that a 'distinction between failure of conduct and professional judgement' had to been drawn.
He also claimed that had he spoken out in favour of the plans for the King's Lynn incinerator, which were opposed by 65,000 people in west Norfolk, he could have been 'vulnerable to a recall bill cast too widely'.
• Would the people of Norwich have exonerated Dr Gibson if it had been put to them? Write (giving your full contact details) to: The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk