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, the Bullying and Harassment Policy, and the Sexual Misconduct Policy are all part of Parliament's Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS), which has been in place since July 2018. The first Annual Report on the operation of the scheme has now been published.
House of Commons Service
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 was published on 15 October 2018, and progress has been made on its principal recommendations.
MPs and MPs' staff
Recognising however that the problem is not unique to the Commons Service, additional inquiries were commissioned. The Gemma White report on bullying and harassment of past and present staff of MPs, as well as Members themselves, has now been published. Following its meeting on Monday 15th July 2019, the House of Commons Commission has made a statement on the report.
House of Lords
In 2018, Naomi Ellenbogen QC was appointed to conduct an inquiry into the nature and extent of bullying and harassment (including sexual harassment and any systemic behaviours) experienced by past and present members of the House of Lords and their staff, and Administration staff employed by the House of Lords. Her report was published on 10 July 2019. The House of Lords Commission made a statement on the report on 18 July.
Progress against Dame Laura's recommendations:
- The Valuing Others and Respect policies have been permanently suspended.
- The Alison Stanley report, an independent review of the ICGS following its first six months of operation and the publication of the Cox report, has been published.
- The ICGS is now open to non-recent cases and to former members of the parliamentary community, following a vote in the House of Commons on 17 July 2019.
- 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.
- On 10 February 2020, the House of Commons Commission announced their proposal for handling the recommendation on the independence of the process. The Commission's proposal is open to public consultation until midnight on Sunday 8 March.
The proposal was developed by a House staff team, with help from a challenge working group of experts in constitutional law, constitutional history, HR and procedure. The group held discussions with key stakeholders, including staff focus groups, the Director of Cultural Transformation, MAPSA, Unite, the Trade Union Side, Dame Laura Cox, the Leader of the House, Chairs of the Committee on Standards, the Public Accounts and Constitutional Affairs Committee, the Women and Equalities Committee and the Liaison Committee and Party Whips.
Appointment of a Director of Cultural Transformation
Dame Laura's 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 Julie Harding ( PDF 141 KB)'s appointment as Director of Cultural Transformation, the development of new organisational values in the Commons, the removal of hierarchical rules and working practices, and training for all staff on recognising misconduct and being confident in tackling it.
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.