The Committee strongly supports the extension of the House’s complaints procedure to cover allegations of bullying and harassment, and sexual harassment.
The report focusses on matters which are the direct responsibility of the Committee, in particular complaints against MPs and the role of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.
The Committee has worked closely with the Steering Group to develop proposals to ensure that MPs are properly held to account, whilst maintaining an independent, fair, trusted and effective process.
Key recommendations outlined in the report include:
Code of Conduct
The new parliamentary behaviour code should be incorporated in the Members’ Code of Conduct, alongside an additional rule stating that:
“A Member shall treat his or her staff, and all those working for or with Parliament with dignity, courtesy and respect”.
This will ensure that MPs can be held fully to account for any instances of bullying or harassment, or sexual harassment.
Investigation and appeal
All investigations relating to complaints against MPs should be overseen by the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, with the Committee on Standards carrying out any ‘appeal’ function that may be required, and the ultimate decision on sanctions in serious cases being taken by the House itself on the basis of a report on the case from the Committee, with the complainant anonymised and subject to any redactions the Committee considers necessary to protect the complainant.
The Committee recommends that the Commissioner continue to publish details of ongoing investigations on her website, demonstrating transparency and openness in the process.
If the Steering Group comes to a different view on this matter, the House should be given the opportunity to take a final decision.
The presence of seven lay members on the Committee alongside seven MPs will ensure that this process is independent.
The lay members are members of the public, chosen on merit through open and fair competition, from diverse backgrounds and with a wide spread of experience and skills – detailed biographies of the current lay members are published with the report.
At present, the lay members of the Committee do not have full voting rights.
The Committee recommends that the House introduces a new system of ‘indicative votes’ to enable lay members’ view to be always put on the record, if need be, and that the Government should bring forward primary legislation to guarantee that free speech in the Committee is protected by parliamentary privilege in order to allow the extension of full voting rights to lay members.
The Government has announced that the House will be invited to take further decisions on implementing the Independent Complaints and Grievance Policy on Thursday 19 July.
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