Frequently asked questions
Who is the Commissioner and what does she do?
The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is an independent officer of the House of Commons, appointed for a fixed term of five years under Standing Order No. 150. The Commissioner is responsible for the Register of Members' Financial Interests and conducts independent, fair, thorough and impartial investigations into alleged breaches of the Rules of Conduct by MPs. The current Commissioner is Kathryn Stone OBE. Her work is overseen by the Committee on Standards, who she also advises about issues relating to the Code.
Additionally, the Commissioner considers allegations against MPs under the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS). The ICGS process deals with complaints of bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct within the parliamentary community. Allegations of this nature should be made directly to the ICGS.
Further details about the Commissioner’s work are available in her annual reports.
What are the registers?
This provides information about any financial interest or benefit Members receive, which others might reasonably consider to influence his or her actions or words as an MP.
Journalists accredited to the Lobby, Press Gallery or for parliamentary broadcasting are required to register other employment advantaged by their parliamentary pass, subject to a financial threshold.
Members' staff who hold a parliamentary pass sponsored by an MP are required to register outside employment advantaged by their parliamentary pass and also benefits such as gifts and hospitality, subject to their financial value and relevance. These interests are published in the Register of Interests of Members' Secretaries and Research Assistants which is maintained by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. The Register is published on the parliamentary webpages and updated approximately every six weeks.
All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) are informal groups of MPs and members of the House of Lords from all political parties. These groups share a common interest in a particular policy area, region or country. APPGs have no formal place in the legislature but are an effective way of bringing together parliamentarians and other interested stakeholders.
What are the Rules of Conduct?
MPs must follow eight rules that apply to them because of their membership of the House of Commons. These rules are known as the Rules of Conduct and are found in section V, paragraphs 11-18 of the House of Commons’ Code of Conduct for Members.
Can I complain about other parts of the Code of Conduct?
Other sections of the Code (I Purpose of the Code, II Scope of the Code, III Duties of Members and IV General Principles) are designed to help frame the rules in section V. The Nolan Principles are intended to be high level statements that all those in public life should respect and act in accordance with, but they are not rules in themselves and are not enforceable.
What information do I need to provide when making an allegation?
If you would like to make an allegation that an MP has broken one of the rules in paragraphs 11-18, you will need to provide following:
- The name and full postal address of the person making the allegation; and
- A written allegation explaining which rule/s have been broken and the reasons for that; and
- Sufficient evidence to justify beginning a formal inquiry
Can I make an anonymous complaint?
You can contact the Commissioner’s office in confidence but before beginning a formal inquiry the Commissioner must be given the name and postal address of the person making the allegation. The Commissioner cannot open a formal inquiry based on anonymous allegations. Following the principles of natural justice, MPs will be informed of the complainant's name, but not their address, if a formal inquiry is opened.
Can I make a complaint about the Commissioner’s decision not to investigate a matter?
There is no right of appeal if the Commissioner decides not to begin an inquiry. She may review her decision if there is relevant new evidence.
How can I complain about the standard of service an MP has or has not provided?
The Commissioner cannot investigate a complaint about an MP’s handing of an issue or problem raised by a constituent, unless one of the eight rules of conduct may have been broken. The rules do not set out how an MP should run their office and MPs do not have an obligation to act on every matter constituents raise with them. The Commissioner has no authority to insist that an MP should respond to correspondence or follow a particular course of action on a constituent’s case.
Can an MP from another constituency help me?
Most MPs observe the protocol which says they will not take up issues on behalf of people who are not their constituents.
Can I complain about something an MP has posted on a social media platform?
The Commissioner may not generally investigate complaints about the expression of an MP's views and opinions. The Commissioner does not have the authority to investigate complaints about an MP’s use of social media platforms unless they act in breach of the rules.
How do I complain about something an MP has said in the House of Commons Chamber?
The Speaker of the House of Commons is in charge of keeping order in the Commons Chamber. The Commissioner has no authority to investigate what an MP says during debates or how an MP votes.
How do I complain about something an MP has done in their Ministerial role?
Ministerial conduct is regulated through the Ministerial Code. The Commissioner has no authority to investigate complaints about how government ministers carry out their ministerial responsibilities.
The Prime Minister oversees the standards of behaviour expected of a government minister and the appropriate consequences of a breach of those standards. There is no formal route for the public to submit allegations of breaches of the Ministerial Code.
How do I complain about the use of House of Commons stationery by an MP?
MPs are provided with an allocation of stationery by the House of Commons’ authorities, which must then be used in accordance with the House’s rules, which you can see here. House-provided stationery and pre-paid envelopes are provided only for the performance of an MPs parliamentary functions.
If after reading the rules on the use of stationery you wish to submit a complaint, you would need to write to the Commissioner and explain which of the stationery rules you believe have been breached. Usually the Commissioner would also need to see the original letter(s) and envelope if it is available, before deciding to start an inquiry. However, in certain circumstances, scanned copies of stationery may be accepted as sufficient evidence.
What happens if an MP is found to have broken the Code of Conduct?
If the Commissioner upholds an allegation that an MP has breached the Code of Conduct, there are two possible outcomes.
(a) The Commissioner decides the breach is at the less serious end of the spectrum and concludes the matter through the rectification process. This requires that the MP acknowledges and apologise for their breach. The MP will also explain the steps they are taking to ensure further breaches don’t happen.
(b) In some circumstances the Commissioner will refer the matter to the Committee on Standards once she has finished her inquiry. When this happens, the Commissioner sends a Memorandum to the Committee setting out the facts of the investigation. The Committee then reach their own conclusion on whether a breach has occurred, and if so, they may recommend a sanction is imposed on the MP.
Where can I read about the Commissioner’s completed investigations?
When a case has ended, the Commissioner publishes her decisions along with evidence she has considered on her webpages:
Where can I find out more about pay and pensions for MPs?
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) regulates and administers MPs' staffing and business costs. They decide the pay and pensions for the 650 elected MPs and their staff in the UK. Find out more here.
Can I ask my MP to stop contacting me?
Yes, anyone can request an MP to remove their contact details from their mailing lists. The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) can assist with unwanted marketing, or spam, that continues to be sent by an MP's office.