Oldham Liberal Democrats have welcomed the second reading in Parliament (22 October 2021) of a new bill which would bar sexual offenders from seeking, or remaining in, elected public office.
In July, Liberal Democrat Group Leader Councillor Howard Sykes MBE wrote to the Conservative MP for Mole Valley, Sir Paul Beresford, offering his support for the Local Government (Disqualification) Bill and providing his office with a comprehensive briefing on the current legal situation and options.
The bill, now published, will on becoming law disbar anyone from standing or remaining in public office who is subject to a ‘notification requirement’ or ‘order’ relating to sexual offences. Current legislation only bars individuals who receive a custodial or suspended prison sentence of three months or more.
Commenting, Councillor Sykes said: “Over the last four years, Oldham Liberal Democrats have been seeking a change in the law to bar all sexual offenders from office, and not just those who have received an actual or suspended prison sentence. We backed a cross-party motion in Oldham Council, wrote to the government and later had the issue raised in Parliament asking for such a change in legislation so I was pleased to see that Sir Paul’s bill will do exactly that.”
Although Sir Paul’s bill is a private member’s bill, rather than an official government bill, Councillor Sykes hopes it will eventually become law.
“The latest draft of this bill has been drawn up by officials from the recently renamed Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities with Sir Paul’s consent, and he has previously indicated to me that he has held promising discussions with ministers. Sir Paul told me that ‘closing this small loophole should not be a difficult matter’, and recent developments suggest that the government supports the bill, making it more likely over time to become legislation. This is one to watch.”