COMMONS

Sanctions system for Code of Conduct breaches examined

05 July 2019

The Committee on Standards takes evidence from journalists as part of the Committee’s inquiry into possible reforms to the system of sanctions for breaches of the rules set out in the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament. 

Witnesses

Tuesday 9 July 2019, Committee Room 18, Palace of Westminster

At 10.15am

  • Liz Bates, Westminster Correspondent, The Yorkshire Post
  • Kate McCann, Political Correspondent, Sky News
  • Rajeev Syal, Whitehall Correspondent, The Guardian

Focus of the session

The evidence session explores issues arising from the House’s development of new arrangements to tackle bullying and harassment, including sexual misconduct, within Parliament, how the media cover misbehaviour by MPs and the House’s system for tackling this, and what new sanctions might be appropriate in the case of MPs found to have breached the new Behaviour Code.

Sanctions in place and further considerations

There are currently a range of sanctions that may be imposed on Members who are found to have breached the rules.  These include oral or written apologies, suspension of salary, suspension from the service of the House for a specified period, or expulsion.  The Committee considers the purpose of sanctions, whether the current range of sanctions is satisfactory, how effectively they can be enforced, and if there should be additional options of varying severity, between apology and suspension.  The Committee also considers how the sanctions it recommends or imposes interact with the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards’ rectification procedure.

Parliament’s Behaviour Code (PDF PDF 440 KB) has been adopted by both the House of Lords and the House of Commons, supported by an Independent Complaints and Grievances Scheme (ICGS).  In light of these developments, the Committee’s aim is to ensure that the House has a robust, fair and enforceable system of sanctions which are fit for purpose.

Issues to be considered by the inquiry include:

  •  How far does the House have the power to delegate the sanctioning of Members?  Should the Commissioner for Standards have the right to impose sanctions, in addition to her existing rectification powers?
  • Should there be a right of appeal against sanctions, and if so, who would hear the appeal?
  • If sanctions are imposed following a complaint under ICGS, is it feasible or desirable for that sanction to remain confidential, after the conclusion of the investigation? 
  • Should new types of remedy or sanction be adopted, such as compulsory training, deprivation of access to services or facilities, a ban on appointment to committees or overseas travel on parliamentary business, or reimbursement of the costs of the investigation?  Can any new sanctions on Members be created without disadvantaging constituents or Members’ own staff?
  • Is a formal tariff of sanctions needed, with ‘sentencing guidelines’?
  • What lessons can be learned from the practice of other parliaments and assemblies, within the UK and overseas? Or from the practice of professional regulatory bodies?
  • What implications would changes to the sanction system to take account of ICGS cases have for other breaches of the rules (e.g. relating to registration and declaration of interests, or misuse of House facilities)?

Further information

Image: Parliamentary copyright

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