Code of Conduct and Rules of the House

The Code of Conduct and the Guide to the Rules relating to the conduct of Members

The Code of Conduct describes the responsibilities that MPs have as Members of the House and are based on a set of principles. The Guide to the Rules relating to the conduct of Members sets out in detail MPs’ obligations to register and declare their financial interests, and the restrictions on lobbying for reward or consideration. It also describes the procedure for the investigation of complaints.

These responsibilities are separate from and additional to those of other citizens. The Code applies to MPs in all aspects of their public life. It does not seek to regulate what MPs do in their purely private and personal lives.

The obligations set out in the Code are complementary to those which apply to all MPs by virtue of procedural and other rules of the House and the rulings of the Chair, and to those which apply to MPs whose conduct is also within the scope of the Ministerial Code.

The rules create obligations that MPs must follow. The House of Commons also provides guidance to MPs. Guidance generally reflects good practice but it may not be appropriate on every occasion.

The Commissioner may only investigate allegations of breaches of the rules. She may not investigate complaints about:

  • policy matters;
  • a Member’s views or opinions; and
  • a Member’s handling of or decision about a case, including their handling of correspondence, whether or not anyone involved is a constituent of the Member

Unless the MP’s conduct is such that it significantly damages the reputation of the House of Commons as a whole or of its Members more generally.

Independent Complaints and Grievance Policy and the Code of Conduct

On 19 July 2018 the House amended the Code of Conduct to make changes consequential upon its adoption of an Independent Complaints and Grievance Policy (ICGP) aimed at tackling bullying, harassment and sexual harassment. The changes make clear that the new parliamentary behaviour code applies to MPs, and give the Commissioner authority to investigate complaints about bullying, harassment and sexual harassment by MPs in accordance with the new processes set up under the ICGP.

Consequential changes will be made in due course to the Guide to the Rules to take account  of the implications of the ICGP.

Wider review of the Code of Conduct

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is asked to review the Code of Conduct and the Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members once in each Parliament.

In the unexpectedly short 2015-17 Parliament, the former Commissioner had completed her review and sent her proposals for revisions to the Code of Conduct and the Guide to the Rules to the Committee on Standards for their consideration shortly before the Dissolution of Parliament in May 2017.  The Committee on Standards made recommendations on revising the Code to take account of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment in a report published on 13 July 2018, available here.

The Committee is continuing its wider review of the Code and Guide, in consultation with the present Commissioner, and will report further to the House in due course.

Details of the former Commissioner’s consultation on revisions to the Code and Guide are set out below.

Public consultations by the former Commissioner (2016)

On 21 January 2016 the former Commissioner launched the first public consultation exercise of the review of the current Code of Conduct. The first consultation document is available here ( PDF 2.59 MB) (PDF PDF 2.59 MB)The responses to the first consultation document can be seen here ( PDF 229 KB) (PDF PDF 229 KB)

On 10 October 2016 the Commissioner launched the second public consultation exercise to help her with the review.  The second consultation document is available here. The responses to the second consultation document can be seen here.

Page last updated: 16 August 2018