Government tables controversial proposal to hide identities of MPs who have been arrested

Agreement likely over plan to no longer inform Parliament if a member is taken into custody

A controversial proposal to hide the identities of MPs who have been arrested has been tabled by the Government, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. 

Under a motion laid by Chris Grayling, Leader of the House of Commons, the Speaker, John Bercow, will no longer have to announce when an MP has been arrested. Until now, the names of MPs taken into custody by the police were automatically published on the House of Commons order paper. 

But a review by the Procedure Committee – which oversees the rules governing the House of Commons – called for names to be kept secret to protect “the right of members to privacy”, guaranteed under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The recommendation, endorsed by the Government and included in the House of Commons’ “future business” listings, published this week, was tabled by Mr Grayling – alongside Conservative MPs Charles Walker and Thérèse Coffey. 

The motion has to be passed by MPs, but could be “nodded through” without a vote if no one objects. The debate and a possible vote is scheduled to take place late on 10 February after Prime Minister’s Questions.

MPs insist there is a need to balance transparency with privacy. The committee’s report – published in December – said some arrests “may occur in relation to activities which are essentially private where the member has not chosen to make the fact of the arrest public or has not behaved in such a way as to make public knowledge inevitable”. It recommended that “a protocol be established” for the authorities to “consult” with an arrested MP who would be “entitled to indicate that he or she did not wish the notification to be made to the House”. 

The Government insists the change brings MPs into line with the rest of the public. A source said: “The anomaly, as far as it exists, is not that MPs are trying to get special treatment – rather, it’s the other way round. At the moment MPs are named but the public aren’t, so this is just correcting that anomaly.”

In the last Parliament, the process led to the confirmation that Tory MPs Nigel Evans and David Ruffley had been arrested. Mr Evans was later cleared of rape and sexual assault. Mr Ruffley was cautioned for assault. It was also revealed that former Labour MP Eric Joyce had been arrested four times and Green MP Caroline Lucas was arrested during an anti-fracking protest and later acquitted of obstruction.

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