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Staff complaints (2021)

Request

  1. For each of the last three calendar years (2018, 2019 and 2020), please provide a breakdown of all misconduct complaints that were made by Parliamentary Staff against (a) Members of Parliament, (b) fellow Parliamentary staff.
  2. For each misconduct allegation, please state what type of misconduct has been alleged (e.g. "Sexual harassment", "Bullying" etc.)
  3. Finally, please also break the statistics down showing the outcome of each misconduct complaint. For instance: "Written warning", "Dismissed", "Referred to police", "No further action", etc. NB: if disciplinary proceedings are still ongoing, please state this.

 

 

Response


1) For each of the last three calendar years (2018, 2019 and 2020), please provide a breakdown of all misconduct complaints that were made by Parliamentary Staff against (a) Members of Parliament, (b) fellow Parliamentary staff.
and
2) For each misconduct allegation, please state what type of misconduct has been alleged (e.g. "Sexual harassment", "Bullying" etc.)
and
3) Finally, please also break the statistics down showing the outcome of each misconduct complaint. For instance: "Written warning", "Dismissed", "Referred to police", "No further action", etc. NB: if disciplinary proceedings are still ongoing, please state this.

We have interpreted the use of ‘parliamentary staff’ in your request to refer to both staff of the House of Commons Administration, who are apolitical public servants responsible for the running of the House, and staff employed by Members of Parliament, who support their particular MP in their duties.

In the first instance, it may help you to know that there have been several routes to complain about sexual misconduct in the House of Commons for the requested period, as detailed below.

• Grievances – formal complaints about the behaviour of other House of Commons staff can be handled under a generic grievance procedure;
• The Valuing Others Policy – for staff to complain about the inappropriate behaviour of other House of Commons staff. The Policy was permanently suspended in 2018;
• The Respect Policy – this was for staff of the House of Commons complaining about the behaviour of Members of their staff. The Policy was also permanently suspended in 2018;
• The Independent Complaints and Grievances Scheme (ICGS) – implemented in July 2018 and now serves as the procedure for complaints about any sexual misconduct, bullying or harassment;
• The Police – for any individual to make a complaint about criminal behaviour by another person;
• The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards (PCS) – investigates allegations that Members have breached their Code of Conduct; and
• Members’ HR Advice Service – provides confidential advice to Members of Parliament in their role as employers.

To respond to your request, we have broken down our answer in line with these routes of complaint.

Complaints made under grievance procedures and the Respect and Valuing Others Policies:

The House of Commons holds information about complaints made under grievance procedures since 2014, and information about complaints made under the Respect and Valuing Others Policies from 2014 up until the point where they were suspended in 2018.

While this information includes the total number of complaints, the cases are not categorised in the way you request. In order to supply a count of complaints which constitute ‘misconduct’, or to further break them down into different types of misconduct, a sophisticated judgement would have to be made about the information held. We are therefore not obliged by the Freedom of Information 2000 (FOIA) to carry out this breakdown or create this information.

Complaints made under the ICGS:

The House of Commons holds information about complaints made under the ICGS since it was established in July 2018. When a person makes a complaint (known as a ‘disclosure’), it is either investigated under the Bullying and Harassment Policy or the Sexual Misconduct Policy. We hold statistics about the number of disclosures made under each policy, which groups of people the complainants are and which groups of people are the respondents. We also hold information about whether or not the complaints were upheld.

All disclosures under the ICGS where the respondent is either a Member of Parliament, or is either a member of staff of the House of Commons Administration or a member of staff employed by a Members of Parliament (both under ‘parliamentary staff’) (Table 1)

Owing to the low numbers of individuals involved, we cannot provide any further breakdown, including which policy each of the disclosures were made under. For the same reasons, some information in the table has been redacted. In most cases, this is because the number itself is very low (lower than 5). In other cases, the number might be higher than 5, but disclosing it would allow the precise value of other figures below 5 to be calculated. In these cases, this information is therefore exempt by virtue of section 40 (2) FOIA, as disclosure of this information to the public generally, in the House’s view, would not be consistent with data protection principles in Article 5 of the UK General Data Protection Regulation. This is an absolute exemption and the public interest test does not apply.

Information is also held about the sanctions imposed on those who have been investigated via the ICGS. The responsibility for imposing sanctions on the respondent following an investigation, such as a written warning or dismissal, lies with the relevant decision-making body.
• Where the respondent is an MP, this is the PCS. As outlined below, any information held but not published by the PCS is subject to parliamentary privilege.
• Where the respondent is a member of an MP’s staff, this is the MP themselves. This information is held by that MP, rather than the House of Commons Administration.
• Where the respondent is a member of staff of the House of Commons, this is our Human Resources/People and Culture team.

ICGS cases where the decision-making body is the Human Resources team. Data on this subject is held by the Human Resources team according to their reporting year of April to March (Table 2)

The number of cases being dealt with here is very low. Again, disclosing low numbers (fewer than 5) of cases is likely to make it possible for individuals to be identified. Therefore, this information has also been redacted from the table above and is exempt by virtue of section 40(2) FOIA. This is because disclosure of this information to the public generally, in the House’s view, would not be consistent with data protection principles in Article 5 UK GDPR. This is an absolute exemption and the public interest test does not apply.

Complaints made to the Police:

People who make complaints of a criminal nature, such as sexual assault, are encouraged to report the matter to the police. This information is not held by the House of Commons, but by the relevant police force.

The Metropolitan Police Service hold information on all notifiable offences on the parliamentary estate, which may include complaints within the scope of your request. This information is published on a quarterly basis and is available to view on their website. You may wish to redirect your request to them for further information using the contact details which can be found at the Metropolitan Police Service website.

Complaints made to the PCS:

The House of Commons holds information about allegations made about Members to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards (PCS). The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards (PCS) investigates allegations that MPs have breached the rules found in paragraphs 11-18 of the House of Commons’ Code of Conduct for Members, and has oversight of investigations that are conducted under the ICGS where the behaviour of an MP is being investigated.

The PCS publishes statistics about Code of Conduct complaints, including the number of complaints made to her, information about investigations carried out and the result of those investigations. Whilst the House of Commons holds this information, it is also already available from a public source. This information is therefore exempt from disclosure in accordance with section 21(1) and (2)(a) FOIA, which removes a public authority from the obligation to provide access to information which is already in the public domain. This is an absolute exemption and the public interest test does not apply.

However, it may help you to know that the information published by the PCS can be found on our parliamentary pages.
In addition, the Independent Expert Panel (IEP), which was established in June 2020 to hear appeals against the Commissioner’s decisions, consider referrals and determine sanctions, also publishes information about complaints and investigations and can also be found on our web pages.
Before the establishment of the IEP, these responsibilities were part of the remit of the House of Commons Committee on Standards.

The Commissioner’s role is created through Standing Order 150 of the House of Commons and information held by her is subject to parliamentary privilege. The Standing Order also dictates what information is published. Therefore, any other information which may or may not be held by the PCS in relation to your request is exempt information under section 34(2) FOIA. The privileges of Parliament include the exclusive cognisance of each House over whether and when information relating to proceedings in Parliament should be published. In order to avoid an infringement of these privileges, the duty to confirm or deny whether the House of Commons holds such information does not apply to your request. This is an absolute exemption and the public interest test does not apply.

Information about complaints held by the Members’ HR Advice Service:

The House holds records of some matters for which MPs have sought advice from the Members’ HR Advice Service. However, this information is not broken down such that complaints of ‘misconduct’ can be identified. In order to supply a count of such complaints, or to further break them down into different types of misconduct, a sophisticated judgement would have to be made about the information held. We are therefore not obliged by the FOIA to carry out this break down or create this information.