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; it is an updated version of one originally issued in 2014.
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 sanction, 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 his or her 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 prepared by its Chair, and makes any desired amendments.
- If there is disagreement, Committee members can vote on any areas of disagreement, but in practice the Committee has a strong tradition of operating by consensus and formal votes are very rare.
- The report is published on the Committee’s website very shortly after it has been agreed. No advance copies are made available.
The role of the Lay Members
- The Lay Members have full voting rights on the Committee. As there are equal numbers of Lay Members and MPs (seven in each category), and as the House of Commons convention is that a select committee chair only has a casting vote, in practice the Lay Members enjoy a voting majority on the Committee.
- In addition, 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.
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 House’s own disciplinary proceedings.
(Please note that this protocol is currently being renegotiated. The intention is that it will be replaced by two bilateral protocols between the Police and, respectively, the Commissioner and the Committee. This is in order to reflect the operational independence of the Commissioner, endorsed by the House on 7 January 2019. A further announcement will be made in due course.)