ICGS - Confidentiality
Confidentiality is vital to the integrity of all ICGS cases. Divulging the details of an ongoing investigation can pose a risk to the wellbeing of others involved in that process and can inflict reputational damage before a fair and thorough investigation is carried out.
Any breach of confidentiality will be treated seriously and may be considered as an aggravating factor in a case.
Who sees details about my complaint?
Information about any complaint is restricted to those directly involved in investigating and resolving a case. This will normally include:
- the independent ICGS helpline (Victim Support)
- the independent external investigator
- members of the ICGS team
- the decision-making body
- Witnesses directly involved in the case
- an independent Sexual Misconduct Advisor (in cases of sexual misconduct)
– these individuals can differ depending on who the respondent is (cases involving MPs may include the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards (PCS), and her colleagues if a case goes to full investigation; and the Independent Expert Panel if there is an appeal or referral to it).
There is however an exception, if one of the bodies involved in investigating or resolving a case identifies safety or welfare concerns, such as risk of harm to an individual, they may need to notify agencies such as the Police or health services and specified individuals within Parliament.
Who can I talk to about a complaint?
It is important that you get the support and advice that you need and can talk to the appropriate people who can discuss any actions to support you during and after an investigation.
You may discuss the complaint with:
- Staff / trade union representative / MAPSA
- A trusted person – friend / colleague / family member
- Your party whip (if you are an MP)
- Your line manager, or someone else in your management line.
- Relevant professional advisers, such as legal and medical, at your own discretion.
All parties to a complaint are required to treat the matter as strictly confidential. Think carefully about:
- who you speak to;
- where you speak to them; and
- how they keep it confidential
If you are in doubt about who you can discuss the complaint with, you can ask the investigator, relevant decision-making body or the ICGS Team, who will be able to advise you. There are several support services available.
The ICGS Helpline is also always there to offer support and advice.
ICGS helpline - 0808 168 9281 (Text relay: 18001 0808 168 9281)
Email - support@ICGShelpline.org.uk.
ICGS Helpline opening hours are 9am – 6pm, Monday to Friday.
If you are unable to contact us during our normal opening hours we can arrange to speak to you in the evening by prior arrangement.
How long do I have to keep the information confidential?
Is anyone told if I call the Helpline?
No. You may remain anonymous when contacting the helpline, and only when making a formal complaint will you need to provide your name. Our expert advisors are trained and experienced to support you with complaints about sexual misconduct.
There is, however, one exception where a safety or welfare concern has been identified, such as risk of harm to an individual. In this circumstance, agencies such as the Police or health services and specified individuals within Parliament may need to be notified.
Will you inform line managers or HR if I make a complaint?
No. Neither the ICGS team nor the person in the decision-making body (DMB) role will inform a Complainant’s line manager or HR department of the complaint unless the line manager or someone in HR is either the respondent or DMB. If you want support and advice from your line manager, you can talk with them in confidence about your complaint.
Are Party Whips informed of complaints about Members of the Commons?
Party whips will not, as a matter of course, be informed that a complaint has been made and is under investigation.
Are Party Whips informed of complaints about Members of the Lords?
No. ICGS cases are considered confidential indefinitely. However, if the Commissioners think that the complaint raises concerns about the safety/wellbeing of the parliamentary community, they can impose temporary access restrictions on the complainant during the investigation.
What happens if I do not want to be identified to the person I am making the complaint against?
You can call the helpline for confidential support and advice at any time. No information about those calls is shared with the person complained about (unless and until a formal investigation is launched). However, if a formal complaint is made, it cannot be investigated without informing the respondent of the details of the complaint, including the name of the person who made it.
If I work for an MP or a Member of the House of Lords, will they be informed if a complaint is made about me?
If you work for an MP, they would usually be the relevant decision making body, and would be informed if a complaint has been made about you. If you work for a member of the House of Lords, the complaint would be dealt with by the Lords Commissioner for Standards, under the Code of Conduct for Lords Members’ Staff.
What is published by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards (House of Commons)?
The Commissioner does not publish information about current individual ICGS complaints.
Are the details of cases against MPs or former MPs published?
Reports on cases involving MPs and former Members can be published. The PCS will publish reports on cases where she has the power to impose certain sanctions. The Independent Expert Panel (IEP) will publish reports on cases that require a sanction to be imposed by the House or where an apology is required to be made in the House. It will also normally publish a report in other cases where a complaint has been upheld, and where a complaint has not been upheld but the allegations have already been given publicity.
The IEP will limit the information in their reports to that which is necessary to explain the context of their decision. The identity of complainant’s and witness will remain confidential unless they agree to be named. Any information not contained in a report remains confidential.
For further information on confidentiality and reporting please visit the IEP’s own guidance .
What is published by the House of Lords Commissioners for Standards?
In all reports published by the Commissioners for Standards and the Conduct Committee, the complainant and witnesses are anonymised unless they wish to be identified. The Commissioners always publish a report where they dismiss an ICGS complaint against a Member of the Lords after investigation, though they have the discretion not to include the name of the Member. Where cases are settled through remedial action, a report is always published where the respondent is a Member; where the respondent is somebody who works for a Member, the Commissioners have discretion over publication. Any case referred or appealed to the Conduct Committee concludes with a published report, except for cases concerning Members’ Staff where the Committee has discretion not to publish one.
Can information or details of complaints be released under Freedom of Information requests?
Information about individual complaints is not released in response to Freedom of Information requests. Both Houses are committed to releasing statistical data about the use of the ICGS. This is published quarterly on Parliament’s website and Annual Report. Great care is taken when collating this information to ensure that no data that could identify an individual is released.
How do the confidentiality arrangements apply to witnesses?
Witnesses are not informed of the outcome of any ICGS case or informed directly when a report concerning a Member of either House is to be published (though they can of course read the published report).
In cases put before the IEP any witnesses involved in the investigation will be contacted in advance of a report being published if there is any risk of their being identified in the report.
What happens if there is a breach of confidentiality?
A breach of confidentiality is when data or private information is disclosed to a third party without the data owner’s consent.
If there’s a breach of confidentiality before the process has concluded, that could be taken into account in the investigator’s report and in determining the sanction to be imposed.
If there’s a breach after the process has concluded, then what happens will very much depend on the circumstances/position of the person responsible for that breach.
In respect of complaints against Lords members or Lords members’ staff, these are governed by the Lords Code of conduct (see para 144 of the guide to the code)
What do I do if the press finds out?
All parties to a complaint are required to observe strict confidentiality and not to comment publicly. Both Houses would respond to media enquiries that they can neither confirm nor deny that an ICGS complaint had been made.
If you are contacted by a member of the Press at any point throughout the process, you should not make any comment. You should contact the investigator or decision-making body involved in your case and let them know about the Press interest. The investigator will contact the ICGS team who will take any necessary action.
If you are not able to contact the investigator, you can contact the ICGS team at ICGS@parliament.uk
In the House of Lords, you should always contact the Commissioners for Standards (firstname.lastname@example.org or tel: 0207 219 7152). In exceptional circumstances, the Commissioners may publicly confirm or correct information in the public domain concerning a complaint or preliminary assessment, though they will always consult the parties before doing so.
For those working for a Member, should you need support if a complaint becomes public, we recommend contacting one of the other support services such as your Trade Union, or the Employee Assistance Programme.
For those working for either House, if you are not able to make contact with the investigator, the ICGS team or the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards, you can contact the House of Commons media relations team; 020 7219 0696 (Monday – Friday, 9am – 6pm), 020 7219 7395 (at all other times), or email email@example.com. Contact details for the House of Lords media team are: 0207 219 8550 (Monday - Friday, 9am-6pm) (diverted to an out-of-hours number at all other times) or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If the matter is urgent, please leave a voicemail or send an email and the media team will get back to you as soon as possible (both during/outside of office hours).