COMMONS

Inquiry into sanctions launched

03 May 2019

The Committee on Standards launches 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. 

Purpose of the inquiry

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 will consider 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 will also consider 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.

Send us your views

Issues to be considered by the inquiry will 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)?

As part of this inquiry, the Committee will shortly announce a series of oral evidence sessions.

Written submissions, of no longer than 3,000 words, are invited, to be received no later than Friday 31 May.

Considerations

The Committee notes that its inquiry is without prejudice to any further decisions the House may take with regard to implementing Dame Laura Cox’s October 2018 report on bullying and harassment in the House of Commons, or in consequence of the ‘Six Month Review’ of the ICGS being conducted by Alison Stanley CBE.

The Committee also draws attention to the current inquiry by the Committee of Privileges into the exercise and enforcement of the powers of the House in relation to select committees and contempts.

The two committees (which share the same elected members) will co-ordinate their work as necessary where there is overlap between the two inquiries.

A letter to the Committee Chair from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, making proposals for adapting the sanctions regime to ICGS cases, has been published on the Committee’s website.

Further information

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