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Update: Commission Decisions of 10 February 2020

17 February 2020

Commission decisions:

Update from unions and Members’ staff reps [Ken Gall, Georgina Kester and Max Freedman]

All three representatives explained their roles and welcomed the opportunity to speak at the Commission for the first time. Ken Gall reported that the Trade Union Side would soon be putting forward a pay claim, and that the next pay settlement would need to ensure staff retention and motivation.

Georgina Kester, on behalf of the Members’ and Peers’ Staff Association called for better induction for all new staff before they began work. Max Freedman, on behalf of Unite, said there needed to be better engagement between IPSA and staff going forward.

Determination of complaints without Member involvement

The Commission backed the creation of an independent expert panel for determining bullying or sexual harassment complaints against MPs.

The proposal, which is now open to consultation among House staff, would involve a new independent panel of experts with the power to determine cases and decide on sanctions. Unlike the Committee on Standards, which it would replace for ICGS cases, the panel would be completely independent of MPs.

If introduced, the measure will implement the third and final recommendation of Dame Laura Cox QC on the determination of complaints against MPs under the Independent complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) without MP involvement.

The public consultation will be open until midnight on Sunday 8 March. More can be found out about the consultation here.

ICGS changes and ‘Valuing Everyone’ training

The Commission discussed and agreed to revisions to the definition of ‘harassment’ and ‘sexual harassment’ in the ICGS policies, and the use of consistent terminology between the two policies.  This would bring the definition of ‘harassment’ in line with the Equality Act 2010. It was agreed that the Leader of the House would arrange for the changes to be put to the House for agreement.

Commissioners also agreed to continue working to encourage take up of the ‘Valuing Everyone’ training, on which good progress has been made to date.

Elizabeth Tower refurbishment update

The Commission heard an update on progress on the Elizabeth Tower refurbishment project. It considered a request for additional funding for the project. If approved by the Accounting Officers of each House, this would set a new budget at £79.7m. Work to restore the Elizabeth Tower that houses Big Ben is due to finish next year. It is the most extensive conservation project in Big Ben’s history.

Gemma White QC’s recommendations: Creation of a Members’ Services Team

The Commission took note of a paper outlining a new HR service for MPs’ constituency staff. The new service will oversee employment practices in MPs’ offices, offer regular contact and support for their staff and assist with fair and open recruitment by MPs.

The measure implements a key recommendation of Gemma White QC’s report into bullying and harassment of past and present staff by Members of Parliament.

Any other business

The serving of Halal and Kosher food in parliamentary canteens was raised at the meeting for the first time.

Members agreed that the issue was an important one, after Muslim and Jewish MPs asked if the option could be considered.

Director General Ian Ailles said he would look into the matter and report back to the next meeting in March. 

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