COVID rule-breaking MP Margaret Ferrier suspended from House of Commons for 30 days

MPs have voted to suspend COVID rulebreaker Margaret Ferrier from the House of Commons for 30 days.

The suspension could now lead to a by-election in the politician’s Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency.

Ms Ferrier was ruled to have damaged the reputation of the Commons and put people at risk after taking part in a debate in Westminster 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.

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

On 22 May an independent expert panel upheld the original judgement, and MPs have now voted to back the recommendation.

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

More on Covid

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

Under Commons rules, if an MP is excluded for 10 days or more a so-called ”recall petition” can take place.

Ms Ferrier now faces the risk of being removed from her seat and a by-election called if 10% of her constituents sign the petition.

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

What did Margaret Ferrier do?

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.

The rules at the time stated that Ms Ferrier should have been isolating until she received her test result.

On the Monday, still 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.

The MP has ignored numerous calls to resign.

Read more:
MP sentenced to 270 hours of community service for breaching COVID rules
Margaret Ferrier MP loses appeal over House of Commons ban

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Ms Ferrier travelled by train knowing she had COVID

‘I have grown as a result of my actions’

In her appeal, Ms Ferrier said: “The past couple of years have provided plenty of time for reflection and I have spent many hours ruminating.

“While I of course deeply regret my actions, I have also grown as a result of them.

“There are ways they have made me a better parliamentarian, reminding me of the privilege that I hold in this job and the way that my words and actions can impact in positive ways, too.

“It is why, despite all the hard part of remaining in the public eye, I have not shirked my responsibilities and have continued to regularly attend Parliament and engage with my constituents.”

Both Scottish Labour and the SNP have got their eye on Ms Ferrier’s seat.

After she lost the appeal, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said constituents were “furious” that the issue had dragged on for so long.

The party plan to put forward teacher Michael Shanks as their candidate and are “going all out” to win the seat in a potential by-election or general election as part of a push for a Labour majority at Westminster.

Following the Commons vote on Tuesday afternoon, SNP MP David Linden said: “There must now be a by-election, which the SNP has been calling for since Ms Ferrier’s COVID rule breach first came to light in 2020.

“People in Rutherglen and Hamilton West are paying an unacceptable price for the damaging policies of the Tories and pro-Brexit Labour Party, as the cost of living soars.

“The SNP is the only party offering a real alternative. We will put the cost of living, NHS and independence at the heart of our campaign – and we’ll work hard for every vote to ensure the people of Rutherglen and Hamilton West can elect a strong SNP MP to stand up for them.”