Parliament’s Behaviour Code ( PDF 440 KB) makes clear the standards of behaviour expected of everyone in Parliament, whether staff, members of the House of Lords, MPs or visitors. There is zero tolerance for abuse or harassment.
The Behaviour Code is supported by the Independent Complaints and Grievances Scheme (ICGS), which has been in place since July 2018.
Dame Laura Cox Report
In 2017, the House of Commons Commission appointed Dame Laura Cox to carry out an enquiry into bullying and harassment in the Commons Service. The Laura Cox report ( PDF 1.31 MB) was published on 15 October 2018, and progress has been made on its principal recommendations:
- The Valuing Others and Respect policies have been permanently suspended.
- An independent review of the Independent Complaints and Grievances Scheme is in progress, to ensure it is fit for purpose.
- As a first step in ensuring the independence of the complaints process, the House of Commons Standards Committee recommended that the Commissioner for Standards be allowed to investigate incidents or events more than seven years in the past without requiring permission from the Committee on Standards, and that lay members of the Committee on Standards should be granted equal voting rights with MPs. This recommendation was accepted by the House on 7 January 2019.
- Staff, trade unions and staff networks have all been involved in developing a proposed structure for the handling of non-recent complaints, independent and parallel to ICGS. The proposal is currently being revised, following comments from the trade unions, Commissioner for Standards and the Commons Commission. When it is agreed, the Leader of the House will put the proposal to the House for agreement.
- On 25 February the Commons Commission voted to establish a working group on further consider ways the process of complaints against MPs could be made fully independent. The members of the working group will be announced shortly.
Appointment of a Director of Cultural Transformation
The report also calls for a broader cultural shift in the Commons Service, a change in the behaviours and expectations that have enabled misconduct. Multiple steps are being taken internally to bring this about, including the appointment of Julie Harding ( PDF 141 KB) as Director of Cultural Transformation. The ICGS is also being reviewed by Alison Stanley ( PDF 81 KB) following its first six months of operation and the publication of the Laura Cox report.
Recognising however that this problem is not unique to the Commons Service, additional inquiries are also in progress. We expect Gemma White’s report on the experience of MPs and MPs’ staff to be published in the first half of 2019, with an additional report about the House of Lords by Naomi Ellenbogen to follow shortly after. These reports will likely contain more recommendations and further changes may be needed.
Parliament is not the first organisation to struggle with problems of misconduct, and it will not be the last. However, the parliamentary community have a duty to show leadership and be proactive in creating a working environment where everyone can thrive.