Complaints against MPs: proposal to publish more information

27 January 2010

The Committee on Standards and Privileges has agreed a proposal from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards that he should publish more information on complaints against Members of Parliament

The proposed new arrangements are as follows:

  1. The Commissioner will each month place on his website statistical information about complaints. This will cover the number of complaints he has received; the number he has accepted; the number he has not accepted by broad category; and the number which he has resolved in the previous month, including the numbers not upheld, rectified, or reported to the Committee.
  2. The Commissioner will publish on his website his determination letters on specific complaints not upheld or rectified, as soon as possible after they are produced.
  3. The Commissioner will publish on his website the evidence he has received in relation to complaints which he has not upheld or has rectified. It may not always be possible to publish the evidence at the same time as the relevant determination letters are published.
  4. The Commissioner will list each month on his website the names of Members who are subject to an inquiry, with a brief description of the nature of the complaint.

The Committee has agreed with the Commissioner that under the proposed new arrangements the Commissioner will publish statistical information from the beginning of this financial year, quarterly for the first three quarters, and monthly thereafter, to be followed by a list of Members currently the subject of an inquiry. The Committee has agreed with the Commissioner that the publication policy will apply also to determination letters for this current and for the last financial year, and in due course to the evidence on which they are based. The Commissioner will write to each Member concerned and to each complainant and witness before publication takes place.

The new publication policy will require the approval of the House. Further announcements will be made once this has been obtained.

Further information

The Commissioner’s powers and responsibilities are set out in Standing Order No 150 of the House of Commons. The Commissioner receives and, if he thinks fit, investigates complaints that a Member of Parliament has breached the Code of Conduct of the House of Commons. If the Commissioner does not accept a complaint for investigation, he informs the complainant and gives reasons.

Once accepted, a complaint is investigated by the Commissioner. Following investigation, the Commissioner may decide not to uphold a complaint. In such cases, he writes to the complainant, giving his reasons. Where the Commissioner considers there has been a breach of the rules, but it was at the less serious end of the spectrum and there is no clear evidence that it was intentional, then, under the Standing Orders of the House, the Commissioner may offer the Member resolution of the matter under the rectification procedure. This requires the Member to accept that he or she has breached the rules and to apologise, and in some cases may involve a financial repayment. In these cases, the Commissioner writes to the complainant setting out the circumstances in which he has resolved the matter through the rectification procedure.

It has always been open to complainants or to Members who have been the subject of complaints to publish resolution letters from the Commissioner. However, the Commissioner currently has no power under the Standing Orders of the House to publish them himself.

Where, for whatever reason, a complaint in the Commissioner’s judgment requires him to report to the Committee on Standards and Privileges, the Commissioner prepares a memorandum to the Committee, which then makes its own Report to the House with its own conclusions. The Committee’s Reports are published and the relevant memorandum from the Commissioner is always published, together with all the evidence he has received, as an appendix to the Committee’s Report.

Once implemented, the new publication arrangements will supersede those set out in the Commissioner’s Procedural Note No 5.

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