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Code of Conduct for House of Lords Members' Staff

1. This Code of Conduct for Members’ Staff applies to staff who have a parliamentary photo-pass or network account sponsored by a member of the House of Lords for the purpose of providing parliamentary secretarial or research assistance to the member. The same Code of Conduct applies to members’ spouses or partners who provide such assistance and the staff of the opposition whips’ offices.

2. The Code does not apply to staff working in the Government Whips’ Office or the staff of the office of the Convenor of the Crossbench Peers. The former are civil servants and special advisers and therefore fall under the Civil Service Code or the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers. The latter are employees of the House of Lords Administration on temporary loan and are subject to the same rules and processes as other House staff. Both sets of staff are however still subject to the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme and investigation by external investigators.

3. Members of the House of Lords do not receive a specific allowance for employing staff; consequently, the level of staff support for members varies widely. Many staff working for members obtain income from sources outside the House.

General principles

4. Members’ staff should 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 the House of Lords. In the performance of their duties, members’ staff shall always act consistently with the duty of the sponsoring member of the House to base their actions on consideration of the public interest. Members’ staff should not take any action which would risk undermining any member’s compliance with the Code of Conduct for Members of the House of Lords.

5. Members’ staff shall not make use of their access to the member who sponsors their pass, to other members (of either House), to the parliamentary network or to the parliamentary estate to further the interests of an outside person or body from whom they have received or expect to receive payment or other incentive or reward.

6. Members’ staff may not provide parliamentary advice or services in return for payment or any other incentive or reward.

7. Members’ staff should observe the principles set out in the Parliamentary Behaviour Code[1] of respect, professionalism, understanding others’ perspectives, courtesy, and acceptance of responsibility. These principles will be taken into consideration when any allegation of bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct is under investigation.

Registration of interests

8. Members’ staff are required to register in the Register of Members’ Staff Interests:

(a) all directorships of companies, paid or unpaid;
(b) all paid work outside the House;
(c) if they are a Person with Significant Control of a company;
(d) any shareholdings in businesses or organisations involved in parliamentary lobbying;
(e)any gifts (e.g. jewellery) or benefits (e.g. hospitality, services or facilities) totalling a value greater than £300 from a single source in a calendar year if they relate to or arise from the individual’s work in Parliament (though excluding gifts or benefits from the member who sponsors the individual);
(f) any non-financial interest as defined in category 10 of the Guide to the Code of Conduct for members.

9. When registering an interest in an organisation, members’ staff should specify the nature of its business where this is not self-evident from its name.

10. It is the responsibility of members’ staff to keep their entry up-to-date by notifying changes in their registrable interests within one month of each change occurring. Failure to do so is a breach of the Code of Conduct.

11. Members’ staff are expected to respond to the Registrar’s annual audit notice within four weeks. Reminders will be sent but irrespective of the sending or receipt of any such reminder, it is a breach of the Code not to respond to the annual audit notice within six weeks of its original sending.

12. The Registrar of Lords’ Interests is available to advise members’ staff and members themselves on the registration requirements. Anyone who acts on the advice of the Registrar in registering or not registering an interest satisfies fully the requirements of the Code of Conduct for Members’ Staff in that regard.

Behaviour Code

13. Members’ Staff are required to treat those with whom they come into contact in the course of their parliamentary duties and activities with dignity, courtesy and respect. Behaviour that amounts to bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct is a breach of this Code.

External investigations and imprisonment

14. Members’ staff must, within 10 working days of being notified by the relevant authority, inform the Clerk of the Parliaments if they are:

  • arrested in connection with a criminal offence;
  • charged with a criminal offence;
  • convicted of a criminal offence;
  • placed under investigation by a body that regulates the occupation which they practise;
  • found in breach of rules governing the occupation which they practise; or
  • sentenced to imprisonment in the United Kingdom or in any other jurisdiction.

15. Members’ staff who are sentenced to imprisonment (whether the sentence is suspended or not) in the United Kingdom or in any other jurisdiction, or found in breach of rules governing the occupation which they practise, are presumed to have breached this Code.

Confidential information

16. Members’ staff shall not disclose draft reports of select committees or other confidential information that is provided to them or to the member who sponsors them.

Enforcement

17. The House of Lords Commissioners for Standards investigate alleged breaches of this Code. Any such investigation is conducted in accordance with the procedures set out in the Guide to the Code of Conduct for Members of the House of Lords, amended as necessary according to the circumstances.

18. Members’ staff shall co-operate at all stages with any investigation into their conduct, or that of their sponsoring member, by or under the authority of the House.

19. The Commissioners shall publish a report into any breach of the Code resolved by remedial action except where they consider this to be disproportionate to the breach. In the event of the Commissioners not producing a report in such circumstances, they will typically inform the relevant sponsoring member of the complaint, their finding and any action agreed. Where remedial action is not appropriate or agreed, the Commissioners will report to the Conduct Committee.

20. The Conduct Committee shall consider reports by the Commissioners into alleged breaches of this Code and any appeals against findings or sanctions in accordance with the procedures set out in the Guide to the Code of Conduct for Members of the House of Lords, amended as necessary to ensure fairness and natural justice.

21. The Conduct Committee shall publish a report of its findings except where it considers this to be disproportionate to the breach. In the event of the Conduct Committee not producing a report in such circumstances, the Committee will typically inform the relevant sponsoring member of the complaint, its finding and any action taken.

22. Where a report is not published by either the Commissioners or the Conduct Committee, the confidentiality of the proceedings must be respected by those party to the investigation indefinitely. Either party may apply to the Conduct Committee to lift the confidentiality requirement by reason of exceptional circumstances.

23. Where a member’s staff is found in breach of this Code and the case is not suitable for remedial action to be agreed between the Commissioner and the individual, the sanctions that may apply include:

  • suspension of the individual’s pass;
  • cancellation of the individual’s pass;
  • cancellation of the individual’s network account;
  • requirement to attend training;
  • denial or restriction of access to facilities and services.

24. The Conduct Committee may impose sanctions on members’ staff on its own authority and without recourse to the House.

25. Members’ staff must comply with any sanction imposed by the Conduct Committee. Any failure to do so shall constitute a breach of the Code of Conduct.

26. Nothing in this Code affects the right of Black Rod or the Yeoman Usher to remove a pass at any time for security-related or other reasons.

27. Nothing in this Code affects the right of the Parliamentary Digital Service to cancel an email account at any time for security-related or other reasons.

Note

[1] See Appendix A.