Rt Hon Sir Kevin Barron MP, Chair of the Committee on Standards, has said:
The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards yesterday (15 May) brought two requests to the Committee in connection with a complaint she has received from a Member of the House in relation to the conduct of the Speaker.
Her first request was that the Committee should give its opinion as to whether an investigation of this complaint was within her remit, as a case which engaged Para 15 of the Code of Conduct which was agreed by the House in 2009:
“Members shall at all times conduct themselves in a manner which will tend to maintain and strengthen the public’s trust and confidence in the integrity of Parliament and never undertake any action which would bring the House of Commons, or its Members generally, into disrepute”.
Her second request was that, if the Committee agreed that such an investigation was within her remit, she should initiate it notwithstanding the fact that the alleged events took place more than seven years ago.
Paragraph 11 of the House’s Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members states that:
The Committee has made it clear that it would expect the Commissioner to consult it before exceptionally initiating an inquiry […] in respect of a matter which goes back more than seven years. The Committee would expect to authorise such inquiries only in exceptional circumstances.
Following a discussion involving both elected and lay members, the Committee took a decision on both requests by way of two formal divisions involving only the elected members.
Details of the voting are given in the formal minutes of the meeting ( PDF 344 KB).
The first request was approved, by 5 votes to nil.
The second request was negatived, by 3 votes to 2.
Accordingly the Commissioner has not been authorised to carry out an inquiry into this matter.
I wish to emphasise that, under the current rules of the House, lay members of the Committee on Standards do not have voting rights.
Lay members have the right, under Standing Order No. 149, to append a paper setting out their opinions to any report of the Committee; but the Standing Order does not confer a similar right in respect of decisions by the Committee on motions such as were presented to it yesterday.
My own personal view, which has been stated many times over the years, is that it would be highly desirable for Parliament to confer full voting rights on lay members (though I recognise that this will probably require primary legislation).
I also wish to draw attention to the fact that the Chair of a House of Commons select committee only has a casting vote to be used in the event of a tie, which was not the case in yesterday’s divisions.
I understand that the Commissioner has communicated the result of yesterday’s decisions by the Committee both to Mr Speaker and to the Member who made the complaint.
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