COVID rulebreaker Margaret Ferrier MP loses appeal over Commons ban

MP Margaret Ferrier has lost her appeal against a proposed 30-day ban from the House of Commons over breaching COVID rules.

The suspension could now trigger a by-election in her constituency.

The Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP 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 coronavirus in September 2020.

She was later charged by police and ordered to undertake 270 hours of unpaid work after admitting culpably and recklessly exposing the public “to the risk of infection, illness and death” as a result of her behaviour.

Back in March the Commons Standards Committee recommended that Ms Ferrier be suspended for 30 days but she appealed against the decision.

On Monday, an independent expert panel upheld the original judgement and dismissed the appeal.

The panel said: “She acted with blatant and deliberate dishonest intent.

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“She acted with a high degree of recklessness to the public and to colleagues and staff at the House of Commons.

“She acted selfishly, putting her own interests above the public interest. There could therefore be no lesser sanction for this conduct.”

The proposed ban is now expected to be endorsed by MPs.

Under Commons rules, if an MP is excluded for 10 days or more a so-called ”recall petition” can take place. Ms Ferrier could then face losing her seat in a potential by-election if 10% of her constituents sign the petition.

There has never been a recall petition in Scotland since the procedure was introduced in 2015.

Read more:
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MP who travelled on train with COVID facing by-election after suspension recommended

Ms Ferrier developed COVID symptoms on Saturday 26 September 2020, and after taking a test still went to church and had lunch with a family member the following day.

On the Monday, while awaiting the result of the test, she travelled by train to London, took part in a Commons debate and ate in the members’ tearoom in parliament.

That evening she received a text telling her the test was positive but instead of isolating, she travelled back to Scotland by train the following morning.

Ms Ferrier, who won the constituency for the SNP in 2019, had the party whip removed in 2020 after the allegations emerged and has since sat in the Commons as an independent.

Ms Ferrier had argued that the proposed 30-day ban “amounts to double jeopardy, since she has already been penalised by the sheriff court”.

But the report from the independent expert panel said: “We do not agree. There is no double jeopardy here.”

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said the “by-election that the people of Rutherglen and Hamilton West need has moved one step closer”.

Ms Baillie added: “It is simply disgraceful that this community has been left without proper representation due to the actions of Margaret Ferrier.”