There have been a number of press enquiries about how the Committee considers a memorandum from the Commissioner, the role of the Lay members, and the concordat with the police. This note is issued for information.
How the Committee agrees a Report
The Committee on Standards oversees the work of the independent Parliamentary Commissioner. It is not involved with individual investigations, nor with what the Commissioner puts in her memoranda. It may ask for further information or inquiries to be made when the Parliamentary Commissioner has submitted the results of any investigation. It considers the Parliamentary Commissioner’s memorandum on an investigation and reports its views, including recommendations as to penalty, to the House of Commons.
The detailed process is as follows:
- The memorandum is sent to committee staff, who circulate it to the committee and forward it to the inquiry subject, who is able to submit their views or ask to come before the Committee to give oral evidence.
- The Committee considers the Commissioner’s memorandum and any associated submission from the inquiry subject. It can at this stage seek further information from the inquiry subject. The Committee discusses a draft report on the matter and amends it to reflect its views.
- If there is disagreement, Committee members can vote on any areas of disagreement, but in practice, the Committee, like the Committee on Standards and Privileges before it, operates by consensus. Lay Members of the Committee do not have a vote, but play a full part in discussions.
The role of the Lay Members
- The Lay Members have the power to append an opinion to any Committee Report. If a Lay Member present at a meeting indicates they wish to add such an opinion to a report, the Committee is unable to publish that report until the opinion has been added to it.
- The minutes show clearly whether there have been any votes, and whether the Lay Members have submitted an opinion. The Lay Members are always asked whether they wish to submit an opinion before a report is finalised.
This system of self regulation with lay input is not unique: take for example:
- The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons:
“Once we have a response to the complaint and other relevant information, generally a veterinary surgeon and a lay member consider whether the complaint is sufficiently serious to refer to the Preliminary Investigation (PI) Committee.”
- The General Medical Council:
“At the end of our preliminary investigation, two GMC staff known as case examiners (one medical and one non-medical) will consider the case. They can:
- conclude the case with no further action
- issue a warning
- refer the case to a the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) for a fitness to practise panel hearing
- agree undertakings with the doctor.”
The Protocol with the Metropolitan Police
The Committee has a protocol with the Metropolitan Police to ensure that the administration of justice is not impeded by actions taken by the Parliamentary Commissioner or the Committee on Standards. The principle is that criminal investigations should generally have precedence over the Houses own disciplinary proceedings.