Tories try to reduce MP’s suspension to avoid triggering a possible by-election

Three Conservatives who will have a say over Boris Johnson’s political fate tried to reduce the suspension of MP Margaret Ferrier to avoid a potential by-election.

Ms Ferrier, who represents Rutherglen and Hamilton West, was recommended by the Commons Standards Committee for a 30-day suspension for breaching coronavirus rules.

If the wider House of Commons backs the suspension, a recall petition could be triggered because it exceeds the 10-sitting day threshold.

Mr Johnson is waiting to find out whether a likely sanction for misleading MPs from the separate but overlapping Privileges Committee could put him into by-election territory.

Coronavirus – Thu Oct 1, 2020
MP Margaret Ferrier in the House of Commons (Parliament TV/PA)

The minutes of the Ferrier decision show Tory MPs Alberto Costa, Sir Bernard Jenkin and Sir Charles Walker all tried to reduce her recommended sentence to nine sitting days.

Allan Dorans, a member of the SNP, from which Ms Ferrier lost the whip, also backed the lower sanction which would fall below the crucial threshold.

All four men also sit on the cross-party Privileges Committee.

Tory Andy Carter and Labour’s Yvonne Fovargue, who also sit on both committees, opposed the reduction and voted it down with the backing of the lay members on the standards group.

The six MPs backed Sir Bernard’s call to say the Recall of MPs Act 2015, meaning a suspension of 10 days means a recall petition is triggered, “requires review”.

The two committees are different, as are the offences, but the Ferrier report gives an insight into the considerations going on behind the scenes in Mr Johnson’s case.

The Privileges Committee, chaired by Labour grandee Harriet Harman, is considering whether Mr Johnson committed a contempt of Parliament.

He accepts he misled MPs with his denials of Covid rule-breaking parties in Downing Street while he was prime minister but denies doing so “recklessly”.

Ms Ferrier was found to have damaged the reputation of the Commons and put people at risk after taking part in a debate and travelling by train while suffering from Covid-19.