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Complaints of inappropriate behaviour (2017)

Request

  1. How many incidences of sexual harassment, sexual assault or improper conduct have been reported to have taken place within the House of Commons from January 2017 until October 2017?
  2. How many incidences of sexual harassment, sexual assault or improper conduct have been reported to have taken place within the House of Commons for the calendar years 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010.
  3. How many of these reported incidences have had action taken on them for the years 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010.


Response

  1. How many incidences of sexual harassment, sexual assault or improper conduct have been reported to have taken place within the House of Commons from January 2017 until October 2017?
    and
  2. How many incidences of sexual harassment, sexual assault or improper conduct have been reported to have taken place within the House of Commons for the calendar years 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010.
    and
  3. How many of these reported incidences have had action taken on them for the years 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010.

We have interpreted your question as asking about sexual harassment, sexual assault and improper conduct relating to sexually harassing behaviours. Some information is held by the House of Commons.
For House of Commons staff, there are two formal channels through which complaints may be made. The Respect Policy is the channel for dealing with complaints about bullying and harassment by Members and/or Members’ staff towards House staff. The Valuing Others Policy deals with complaints made by House staff about other House staff. Whilst the House holds the total number of complaints managed under these policies, we do not hold a record of how many allegations of sexual harassment or related improper conduct or actions taken as a result of any such allegations, because we do not further break down or categorise the complaints received.

Allegations of criminal behaviour can be reported directly to the police. The Metropolitan Police Service hold data relating to notifiable offences carried out on the Parliamentary Estate, on behalf of the House of Commons. Since January 2012, they routinely publish that information on their website. Prior to that, for the years 2008 to 2011, information about notifiable offences was published on our disclosures web pages. As this information is reasonably accessible to you otherwise than under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), your request is refused. In refusing your request the House is applying the exemption set out in section 21 (1) and (2) (a) of the FOIA. This is an absolute exemption and the public interest test does not apply.
The House of Commons does not hold a record of police action taken as a result of these offences.

Members’ staff are employed by Members of Parliament themselves and not the House of Commons Commission (which employs staff of the House Administration). However, in 2014 the House of Commons launched a confidential helpline for Members’ staff which is part of an Employee Assistance Programme currently run by a third-party supplier, Health Assured. This programme provides, amongst other benefits, a free 24/7 confidential helpline which allows staff to discuss and seek advice on a range of personal and professional issues.
The helpline is not a reporting line for allegations, however, for the period November 2016 to October 2017, the House holds records about the general nature of calls made to Health Assured and a very small number of these calls were identified by Health Assured as being related to concerns about ‘bullying and harassment’. However, owing to the low numbers of these calls (fewer than 5) disclosing this data may make it possible for individuals to be identified. This information is therefore exempt by virtue of section 40 (2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), as disclosure of this information to the public generally, in the House’s view, would not be consistent with data protection principles in the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). This is an absolute exemption and the public interest test does not apply.
The House of Commons does not hold a record of action taken as a result of any allegations made to the helpline because specific details of calls are not shared with the House.

The House of Commons also provides HR advice to Members in their role as employers. This includes advice about how to manage complaints about a range of employment issues, including improper conduct relating to sexual harassing behaviours. Members are not obliged to consult this service, but we keep some records of inquiries made. However, owing to the low number of cases involving improper conduct (fewer than 5) disclosing this data may make it possible for individuals to be identified. This information is therefore exempt by virtue of section 40 (2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), as disclosure of this information to the public generally, in the House’s view, would not be consistent with data protection principles in the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). This is an absolute exemption and the public interest test does not apply.