Frequently asked questions
1. Who is the Commissioner and what does she do?
The Commissioner’s role is created through Standing Order 150 of the House of Commons, and each Commissioner is appointed for a fixed term of five years. The Commissioner is independent from Parliament and the current Commissioner is Kathryn Stone OBE.
The Commissioner may only investigate allegations that MPs have broken the rules that apply to them because of their membership of the House of Commons. She conducts independent, fair, thorough and impartial investigations of alleged breaches of the eight Rules of Conduct by MPs.
She also considers allegations against MPs under the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS). These concern bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct.
The Commissioner has no authority to investigate complaints about how Government Ministers carry out their ministerial responsibilities (see question 12 for more information).
Advising MPs on the rules is an important part of the Commissioner’s day to day work. The Commissioner also has responsibility for keeping registers of interests, explained below.
2. 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 certain outside employment and also benefits such as gifts and hospitality, subject to their financial value and relevance.
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.
3. What information do I need to provide when making an allegation?
If you would like to make a complaint that an MP has broken one of the rules, listed here in Paragraphs 11-18 of the House of Commons’ Code of Conduct for Members, you will need to provide following:
- The name and full postal address of the person making the allegation
- A written allegation naming the MP/s (currently via email to firstname.lastname@example.org) explaining which rule you believe has been broken and the reasons for that
- Sufficient evidence to justify beginning a formal inquiry
4. 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.
5. 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 accept anonymous allegations for formal inquiry. MPs will be informed of the complainant's name but not the address.
6. 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
7. What are the General Principles of Conduct?
Additional information is provided in the Code of Conduct document. Sections I Purpose of the Code, II Scope of the Code, III Duties of Members and IV General Principles, are all designed to help frame the Rules of Conduct that appear in Section V. The Commissioner does not have the power to investigate allegations of breaches of these other parts of the Code in isolation from an alleged breach of Section V.
8. How can I complain about the standard of service an MP has or has not provided?
An MP has to balance the demands of representing the people of their constituency, supporting the goals of their political party and following issues that are important to them as an individual. The Commissioner can only investigate a complaint about an MP's handling of an issue or problem raised by a constituent, where one of the eight Rules of Conduct might have been broken. The Rules of Conduct do not set out how an MP should run their office and MPs are not under 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.
9. 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. It is not a strict rule, nor does it prevent MPs from corresponding with “non-constituents” about policy matters.
However, there may be practical reasons for MPs prioritising correspondence from their own constituents over correspondence from others. Most MPs receive very large volumes of letters and emails, and some may receive more correspondence than they can answer on an individual basis.
10. 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 of Conduct. You may wish to complain to the social media provider instead about the content of the MP's post.
11. 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 power to investigate what an MP says during debates or how they vote.
12. How do I complain about something an MP has done in their Ministerial role?
Ministerial conduct is regulated through the Ministerial Code, which is issued by the Prime Minister. 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 that Code but you can write directly to the Prime Minister’s office if you believe there has been a breach of this code.
13. 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 on Standards 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.
14. How can I find out about ongoing investigations?
The House of Commons does not allow the Commissioner to give out any information at all during an investigation, even to confirm that it is taking place.
15. 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:
16. 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.
17. 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.
18. 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.
19. Where can I read more about the Commissioner’s work?
The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards has published an annual report since 2003. Find out more here.
20. How can I contact the Commissioner's office?
Telephone number: 020 7219 3738