Third time lucky: Liberal Democrat Leader again backs change in law to bar sex offenders from public office

Oldham Liberal Democrat Leader Councillor Howard Sykes MBE recently wrote to a Conservative member of parliament backing his plans to change the law on when councillors will be barred from public office.

The name of the Conservative MP for Mole Valley, Sir Paul Beresford, was drawn in an annual ballot held recently in Parliament. Selection entitles Sir Paul to propose a private member’s bill. He has chosen to introduce a bill titled the Local Government (Disqualification) Bill.

Councillor Sykes wrote to Sir Paul asking him to ensure the new law will ban anyone convicted of a sex offence and placed on the Sex Offender’s Register from seeking, accepting, or staying in public office. The Oldham Liberal Democrats have already twice asked the Conservative Government to do this.

“At present, only councillors convicted of a sex offence who receive a custodial or suspended prison sentence of three months or more are barred from office. The Oldham Liberal Democrats want the law to be changed so that all sex offenders are barred from office, whatever their punishment,” explained Councillor Sykes.

“In March 2017, I seconded a cross-party motion at the Council calling on the government to bar sex offenders from public office. In response, in October 2018, Local Government Minister Rishi Sunak promised to change the law. Two years later, in September 2020, nothing had changed so I asked my party colleague Liberal Democrat peer, Baroness Pinnock of Cleckheaton, to ask the government when the change would happen. In his reply, Conservative Lord Greenhalgh said ‘as soon as Parliamentary time allows’. We have now waited over four years and that time has long passed.”

Sir Paul Beresford responded positively to the letter within a day saying that drafting of his bill is in hand, and that he is already in discussion with a minister on ‘planned progress’. Councillor Sykes concluded: “This sends the message that the government is prepared to back the bill and Sir Paul believes that ‘closing this small loophole should not be a difficult matter’.”

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