Giving voters the right to "recall" MPs would stop politicians campaigning on unpopular causes – even if those campaigns are justified, an MP has warned.
Black Country MP David Winnick highlighted miscarriages of justice such as the case of the Birmingham Six, who were wrongly convicted of the Birmingham pub bombings which killed 21 and freed on appeal.
No MP would dare speak out to demand a review of such cases if their constituents had the power to recall them, Mr Winnick said.
He was speaking in the Commons as MPs threw out proposals to let local voters force a by-election between General Elections.
Giving voters the power to "recall" MPs was promised in the Coalition agreement signed by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in 2010, as part of an attempt to improve trust in Parliament following the expenses scandal in 2009, when it emerged that some MPs had been abusing their Parliamentary expenses.
But there is disagreement about how any new system should work.
A Government Bill backed by Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister, would allow a by-election only if the sitting MP is guilty of serious wrongdoing.
This would mean they were sentenced to more than 12 months in jail, or banned from the Commons for more than 21 days.
But critics, such as Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith, say this is too restrictive and does not really hand power to voters. Mr Goldsmith, backed by many Midland Conservative MPs, proposed an amendment to the legislation to trigger a referendum if 20 per cent of eligible voters in a constituency sign a petition demanding one.
The referendum would then ask whether there should be a by-election.
Mr Goldsmith told the Commons that he wanted "a genuine voter-led system of recall with tight caps on spending and a high enough threshold to prevent vexatious abuse" but the Government scheme was "a bogus system of recall that is possible only in the narrowest of circumstances and with prior permission of this House."
He highlighted the support of MPs who had been through periods of intense criticism, including Birmingham MP Andrew Mitchell (Con Sutton Coldfield), who was forced to resign from the Cabinet in 2012 after he was accused of abusing police officers, and Caroline Spelman (Con Meriden), who was criticised over an expenses claim in 2008.
Mr Goldsmith said: "It is no coincidence that many of the Members who have unfairly faced the greatest difficulty during this Parliament, the very people whom the critics of recall might imagine to be the most vulnerable to attack, have put their names to my amendments, and they were the first to do so."
He added: "They did so because they know that the existence of recall is the best possible way of challenging a noisy minority of critics either to put up or shut up. They know that when a recall petition fails to materialise, a Member will be able to turn to his or her tormentors and say, 'the silent majority does not share your view'."
But Mr Winnick (Lab Walsall North) said there were occasions when an MP had taken up an unpopular cause, and had been right to do so.
He said: "There have been campaigns that have made Britain a better and more civilised place: the campaign to abolish capital punishment; the campaign to legalise homosexuality; and campaigns to bring about other changes, for example in the 1960s to outlaw racial discrimination."
He added: "Just imagine a Member of Parliament getting up in the House of Commons at the time of the undoubted atrocities committed near my constituency in Birmingham in November 1974 when 21 people were murdered to say that there had been a miscarriage of justice. We now know that people were wrongly convicted, but saying that would take great courage."