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House of Commons Hansard
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Independent Complaints and Grievance Policy
19 July 2018
Volume 645

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I am happy to inform the House that Mr Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of Sir Kevin Barron.

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I beg to move,

That this House approves the Second Report from the Committee on Standards, Independent Complaints and Grievance Policy: Implementation, HC1396, and the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme Delivery Report and its proposals for ensuring clear standards for all who work in or visit Parliament, and, in particular:

(1) endorses the Behaviour Code and the policies and procedures relating to bullying and harassment and sexual harassment associated with the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme set out in the Delivery Report;

(2) agrees the following amendments to The Code of Conduct:

(i) in Section IV (General Principles of Conduct), after paragraph 8 insert the following new paragraph:

“Parliamentary Behaviour Code

Members are also expected to observe the principles set out in the Parliamentary Behaviour Code of respect, professionalism, understanding others’ perspectives, courtesy, and acceptance of responsibility.”;

(ii) in Section V (Rules of Conduct), add the following new rule as Rule [17]:

“Respect

A Member must treat their staff and all those visiting or working for or with Parliament with dignity, courtesy and respect.”;

(3) agrees the following changes to Standing Orders:

A. Standing Order No. 149 (Committee on Standards)

(i) in paragraph (5), at end insert “save as specified in paragraph (5A) of this Order”;

(ii) after paragraph (5) insert new paragraph (5A) of this Order:

“(5A) It shall be an instruction to the Committee that before dividing on any motion, the Committee should hold an indicative vote of lay and elected members to ascertain the views on the motion of the Committee as a whole and of each member present; that such a vote should be conducted as if it were a formal division; that, as in a formal division, the Chair should not take part in the initial vote but should have a casting vote in the event of a tie; that after holding such a vote the results should be recorded in the Committee’s formal minutes, without question put; and that after holding such a vote the Committee may or may not proceed to a formal division of elected Members.”;

B. Standing Order No. 150 (Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards)

(i) in paragraph (2), at end add the following new sub-paragraph:

“(f) to consider cases arising from the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme”;

(ii) in paragraph (4), at end add the following new sub-paragraph:

“(c) in any case arising from the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme where the Commissioner has proposed remedial action within any procedure approved by the Committee with which the Member concerned has complied or, if the remedy is prospective, undertaken to comply”;

(4) recognises the role of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to consider cases arising from the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme; notes the arrangements about publishing the details of investigations of such cases to ensure complaints are handled confidentially as set out in the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme Delivery Report; and accordingly agrees that, for consistency and fairness, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards should no longer routinely publish information about individual investigations before those investigations are concluded and accordingly agrees to amend sub-paragraph (b) of paragraph (12) of Standing Order No. 150 by inserting “statistical” before “information” and leaving out “and matters under investigation”;

(5) recognises that Dame Laura Cox QC is conducting an independent inquiry into the allegations of bullying and harassment of House of Commons staff, whose Terms of Reference were published on 23 April 2018; notes that the inquiry relies upon past and present staff members coming forward with information in person or in writing; notes further that the inquiry, while not investigating any individual complaints or reopening past cases, will consider what options are available for resolving current or historical allegations and providing support to those affected; accordingly agrees that a further independent inquiry in similar terms be established, by the Clerk of the House in consultation with the relevant authorities in the House of Lords as appropriate, to consider allegations of bullying and harassment in respect of those individuals including MPs and their staff, where those allegations are not in scope of the Dame Laura Cox QC inquiry; and directs that the inquiry should report directly to the House in time for its findings to be taken into account in the 6 month review of the scheme established under paragraph (6) of this motion;

(6) endorses the proposal in the report that there should be reviews of the new arrangements at 6 months and 18 months, and invites the Leader of the House to propose the establishment of a review body, including staff representation, to the House of Commons Commission for their consideration and agreement, in consultation with the relevant authorities in the House of Lords as appropriate; those reviews should incorporate

(a) the findings of the independent review set up under paragraph (5) of this motion and

(b) the findings of the Dame Laura Cox QC inquiry which deals with matters relating to staff of the House;

(7) directs the Accounting Officer to meet those costs of the inquiry under paragraph (5) and the reviews under paragraph (6) falling to the House of Commons from the House of Commons (Administration) Vote.

Today gives us a new start. Since last November, Westminster has been rocked by allegations of bullying and harassment, and today we demonstrate our determination to put our house in order and ensure that everyone will be treated with dignity and respect in future. This debate and vote comes as a result of the tireless work and dedication of the programme team, who have driven the implementation of the working group’s proposals. The programme team was overseen by a cross-party steering group made up of staff representatives and Members of both Houses. To everyone who has been involved in this process and supported and provided advice, I am extremely grateful. Most importantly, we probably would not be having this debate were it not for the bravery and spirit of those women and men who have chosen to speak out about their personal experiences. We thank them for taking that step on behalf of everyone who has been treated wrongly.

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As the right hon. Lady would expect, I have talked to my staff about this policy and asked them whether they think it is a step forward. They do, but they also want the House to recognise the Unite branch and give it a role in the reviewing and implementation of the procedure, to embed union protection in the workplace. Has that idea been discussed or progressed?

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That idea has been discussed a number of times through the working group. It was decided not to include that specific recognition, mainly because there are many different organisations in this place, all of which do a good job. Therefore, there is no non-recognition, but neither is there a specific formalised recognition of the Unite branch within the complaints procedure.

The motion asks the House to endorse specific changes that were identified in the working group’s report that was published and agreed by the House in February. Today, the principles of that report will become reality. First, today’s motion asks the House to approve the independent complaints and grievance scheme delivery report, and in doing so it will also ask the House to endorse a new behaviour code that makes it clear to all those who come here—whether an MP, member of staff, peer, contractor or visitor—the standard expected of everyone in Parliament.

Secondly, the motion asks the House to eliminate the threat of exposure that prevents many people from coming forward, by ensuring that all investigations are managed confidentially. Thirdly, it will provide the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards with a broader set of powers and make changes to the Committee on Standards, including to the voting role of lay members. Fourthly, it proposes that a further independent inquiry be established, with similar terms to the Dame Laura Cox inquiry, to hear historical allegations about Members, peers and their staff. Finally, the motion will make provision for a full review of those arrangements after six and 18 months.

In addition to the measures in today’s motion, the steering group has established two independent helplines—one to deal with bullying, and one to deal with sexual misconduct—as well as independent HR advice for staff, and there is an aspiration to improve the general culture of Parliament, including through a new programme of comprehensive training. Members, staff and the public can rest assured that this new independent complaints and grievance policy puts the complainant at the very heart of the process, while taking care to ensure that the principles of innocent until proven guilty are upheld. The ICGP will be fair and transparent, and I believe it will win the confidence of everyone.

Following an intensive period of implementation, today is the final parliamentary hurdle to getting this much needed new scheme up and running. This is the first step, not the final step, towards the culture change that we all want. That is why we have built in a six and 18-month review of the scheme, to ensure that it achieves exactly what we set out to do. Importantly, the six-month review will take careful account of the findings of the independent inquiry by Dame Laura Cox QC and the further independent inquiry that we are establishing today.

Let me turn to the key elements of today’s motion. First, the new behaviour code will apply to everyone on the parliamentary estate. It has been drawn up following extensive consultation with trade unions, staff associations and the public, who were asked for their views about what behavioural expectations we should have of those working for and within Parliament. It seeks to ensure that everyone in and working for Parliament is respected and valued and that we take a zero-tolerance approach to bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct. Unacceptable behaviour will be dealt with seriously and with effective sanctions.

Today’s motion will also make changes to the Standing Orders for the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and to the Committee on Standards. We propose that the commissioners of both Houses keep their investigations entirely confidential until such time as there is a finding. That is crucial if individuals are to place their trust in the new system. There is clearly a balance to be struck between public interest in transparency and putting the complainant at the heart of the process by protecting their identity, and that is vital. In deciding whether to publish any findings, the PCS will also put the complainant’s wishes at the heart of the decision.

I thank, very sincerely, the right hon. Member for Rother Valley (Sir Kevin Barron) for the extremely thoughtful and collaborative way that he and his Committee came to their position. I must point out, however, that we have had to respectfully disagree on one issue, which is about whether confidentiality should also be observed during an investigation in non-ICGP cases. I would be the last person to want to avoid transparency, but for this scheme to succeed, it is vital that we achieve consistency. The amendment by the Committee on Standards would effectively mean that there is one process for ICGP cases and a different one for non-ICGP cases.

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As the right hon. Lady knows, we have agreed on nearly everything in the report. On this issue, however, I wish to put on record that I did not agree with the position of the group, which was to say that we did not want the amendment tabled by the Committee on Standards. Consistency is not the most important issue, and the optics of this House rolling back transparency are deeply worrying. I would far rather live with a bit of inconsistency, particularly since it essentially means that—quite rightly—MPs are under more of a spotlight. That to me is a much lesser concern than the fact that it looks to the outside world—indeed, to some extent it is true—that we are rolling back transparency at exactly the time we should be expanding it.

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I am incredibly grateful to the hon. Lady for her considerable efforts on this scheme but, very respectfully, I disagree with her on that point. She and I have had a number of conversations about the matter, and we have always been clear that the confidentiality at the heart of this policy must be observed so that a complainant will have the confidence to come forward. As I am sure Members will appreciate, a difference in process between ICGP and non-ICGP cases will be lost on those who observe it, which will inevitably lead to confusion. People will not think, “Oh well, this procedure must be for one issue, and that must be for another issue.” They will just see the naming of an individual, and that will have repercussions for those who want to come forward in confidence to a complaints procedure, feeling that their confidentiality will be upheld.

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I want to endorse what the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) has said. I am a member of the Committee on Standards, and the right hon. Lady will be aware that I have added my name to the amendment. We already receive complaints about non-ICGP matters, and I do not think I have seen any evidence during my time on the Committee to suggest that complainants are deterred from bringing such matters to attention of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. I am concerned, however, that reports often appear in the media, even before the matter has been formally referred to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. Under the proposal by the Leader of the House, it would be impossible for anything to be on the record that would enable an innocent Member to rebut those allegations in the media. I urge her to consider the amendment, which, as I am sure my right hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Sir Kevin Barron) will soon say, is supported by lay members of the Committee, as well by as non-lay members.

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I entirely respect the hon. Lady’s views, but I think that she might be slightly misunderstanding. We are talking about confidentiality during the process of the investigation only. Once an investigation is completed, in the event that there have been reports in the media, in a non-ICGP case—as is the case today—the report would be made publicly available. The steering group advocates that all investigations be carried out confidentially to ensure consistency, now that the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is dealing with extremely sensitive issues that will inevitably be far more open to public scrutiny than in the past.

Right from the beginning, we have sought in this scheme to put the complainant at the heart of the process. All the evidence we have taken demonstrates that confidentiality is a key factor that will encourage victims to come forward. I cannot emphasise that enough. The evidence we have taken shows that, if we do not protect the confidentiality of victims, they will not come forward. We are already in a scenario where too many victims never come forward with their complaints, because they are afraid of being re-victimised by being accused of lying, causing trouble and so on. If we are serious about changing the culture in this place, confidentiality and consistency are vital elements. So again, in thanking the right hon. Member for Rother Valley for his careful consideration, I urge Members to vote against his amendment.

The motion will significantly extend the scope of the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to consider complaints arising from the scheme. The commissioner will be given access to a wider range of sanctions, enabling her to deal more effectively with many cases through apologies, training, behaviour agreements and so on, as well as ensuring independent oversight of investigations.

Finally, the motion sets out changes to the procedures of the Standards Committee, which will receive both appeals and the most serious cases for its consideration. Its voting system will be amended at its request, so that all members, including all lay members, will have a vote. Should the House accept those changes, detailed guidance will be available online immediately, but I want to outline briefly how the new scheme will work.

For anyone with a complaint, the first step is to contact a confidential helpline, where their issue can be considered and triaged. Where individuals decide to pursue a formal complaint, they will be supported to access one of two independent services: one to deal with bullying and harassment and a separate one to deal with sexual misconduct. Should a complaint have criminal implications, the steering group has agreed to establish an information-sharing protocol with the Metropolitan police to make them aware, in the interests of safeguarding and ensuring the scheme could not prejudice a criminal investigation, when such a complaint has been made. The protocol will maintain the confidentiality of complainants, who will decide for themselves whether to take their complaint to the police.

For each complaint, the telephone helpline and investigatory service will seek mediation and informal resolutions wherever possible or appropriate. Where that is not the case, an independent investigation will be opened. Complaints of sexual harassment or assault will have access to an independent sexual misconduct advisory service, which is a specialist service that can provide confidential, independent specialist and trained support in relation to sexual misconduct. In the case of complaints against Members of Parliament, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards will oversee the independent investigation. She will apply sanctions as appropriate, or, in more serious cases, refer them to the Standards Committee. The Standards Committee can of course apply sanctions right up to a lengthy suspension, triggering the Recall of MPs Act 2015. Following a decision on any case, there is of course an opportunity for appeal.

When the working group report was published, there were two outstanding issues. I am pleased to be able to provide clarity on them today. First, when the working group started taking evidence last November, we were advised that House staff had access to the respect policy, which was considered to be entirely adequate for their needs. Since then, it has come to light that there have been difficulties with the respect policy, so the steering group has been clear about its desire to give all staff access to the new ICGP scheme. I am very pleased to tell the House that the House of Commons Commission has now agreed that staff of the House of Commons and the Parliamentary Digital Service should be able to access the ICGP from day one.

Secondly, while anyone can call the new helplines with a complaint, investigations under the new scheme can only go back as far as the beginning of this Parliament. The steering group is, however, determined that we should be able to help all those with complaints, no matter how long ago they occurred. Today’s motion will therefore establish an independent six-month long inquiry into historical allegations using similar terms of reference to the Dame Laura Cox inquiry. The findings of both inquiries will be taken into careful account when we undertake the full review of the ICGP after six months of its operation.

I want to conclude by making clear that this is the beginning not the end of our efforts to change the culture of Parliament. With our new behaviour code, complaint scheme and sanctions, this is an excellent step in the right direction. Our ultimate ambition is for a culture where people can work and visit Parliament and take part in our democracy free from unacceptable behaviour and free from bullying or harassment and where individuals are free to thrive and make a difference. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Parliament. We want to be a role model for legislatures around the world in our determination to tackle our own challenges head on. Many millions of people across the world look to Westminster as a beacon of democracy and freedom. I hope that today will be seen as Parliament leading by example in our determination to treat everyone with dignity and respect. I commend the motion to the House.

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I echo the sentiments of the Leader of the House and thank the programme team and the cross-party steering committee. Some of the programme team are in the House today. I thank them for interpreting our ramblings in all the discussions—both agreements and disagreements. I thank all the specialist advisers, who were informative and progressive, and actually mentioned intersectionality before I had the chance to in a meeting. I thank MPs across the parties and the trade unions—it was a joy to work with all of them. I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) and for York Central (Rachael Maskell), and the Leader of the House for her excellent chairing of the committee.

These codes are bringing Parliament into the 21st century. Behaviour or sexual harassment codes will not work on their own, but as a statement of principle, they are an excellent start with regard to our cultural intent, and they set the parameters in terms of behaviour. These codes are needed to encompass our shared mission.

I want to address a few points. Paragraph 18 on page 11 of the delivery report refers to promoting consistency and maintaining quality. Consistency and quality can be achieved only if there are clear and transparent guidelines, not a reliance on discretion. I hope, as discussed by the committee, that at the six-month review stage, we will look into removing discretion from the policy, as that opens the door to unconscious bias. The committee tried to use the most up-to-date language and safeguarding processes. This in itself will be a learning curve to everyone in this place and beyond. At the core of this policy is our mission to change the culture of this House, and, as the Leader of the House said, to make it a safe and progressive place to work.

Parliament is a unique place to work, with 650 micro-businesses in a macro environment of the electorate, our constituents and our constituencies. The constituency office is included in the codes, even though all the issues relating to it have not been resolved.

We have stressed the importance of diversity in the delivery of training and personal development. I think that means that we will be using smaller, specialist and perhaps unconventional providers in Parliament to ensure that we deliver on diversity of delivery. The report makes reference to unconscious bias training, and that is a case in point, because sometimes smaller providers specialise in such areas. It is also vital that decision makers receive additional training, as well as unconscious bias training. I am pleased to say that I look forward to attending the training pilot. As a trained trainer trainer, I will happily dust down my old skills and help the House to design the best training possible. Other Members of the House are encouraged to put their names forward to be part of the reviewing team for training so that we can get the best possible training for the House.

Everyone involved in the delivery of sanctions needs to be fully trained, including the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, the members of the Committee on Standards and, of course, the investigators. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards’ role has been extended, so training is vital, and the bar for investigating MPs has now been lowered. That was a necessary step in changing the culture of this place, but it will in turn increase the commissioner’s workload. At the six-month review, we will probably have to look at whether more resources are needed for her department. The document refers to the good employer standard, and I hope that at the six-month review we will look at implementing employee appraisals. I am not sure whether we concluded our talk on whether exit questionnaires are now routinely used, but they are a vital tool to help an organisation’s culture change.

I want this House to be a beacon of good practice. The codes will apply to not only MPs, but all who work in and visit this place. The introduction of the scheme is the beginning of a sustained, well-supported and appropriately resourced approach to promoting a positive and supportive environment for those working in and visiting Parliament. That is something we should all embrace.

We must not lose sight of how much good happens in this place—the opportunities that are offered to people, especially young people, and the work of many, including Mr Speaker, to improve the intersectionality, diversity and inclusion of all, including the LGBT+ community in this place. We must continue to have a supportive environment for everybody who works and visits here.

It is imperative that we incentivise and promote good behaviour. Training and personal development should be viewed not as a punishment, but as a way of contributing to an inclusive and progressive Parliament. After all, who would not want to improve what they do and do it better? That is how excellence is achieved.

Trade unions are often the first port of call, and I feel that Parliament needs to have an official recognition agreement with trade unions. Unite, GMB, the National Union of Teachers and the Public and Commercial Services Union are just a few that have a substantial membership in this place. Trade unions play a key role in workers’ lives. They are also a safe place to go to raise concerns, and this process has been substantially strengthened by the input of trade unions. If we are serious about getting this right, trade unions are also central to it.

As long, hard and arduous as the process has been, it has been worth it in the end for the document that we have produced. It all started as part of the #TimesUp and the #MeToo campaigns, and I was part of the very first meeting when the Leader of the Opposition called on the Prime Minister to adopt a cross-party approach to tackle and address the culture of bullying and harassment in Parliament. The Prime Minister agreed with the Leader of the Opposition and today is the result. This process shows what can be achieved when there is a shared goal and a shared commitment. It also shows what can be accomplished when we all work together towards a common endeavour. We can achieve more together than we can achieve alone, and I look forward to the next steps and the successful implementation of the scheme.

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I pay enormous tribute to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. I think that nobody would contradict me if I said that without her skill, implementing this new procedure would simply not have happened. It is easy for all of us to call for action and say, “Something should be done,” but it takes a particular skill to actually deliver that, and I pay tribute to her for having dealt with all the factions that have been at play and bringing us to this successful conclusion today.

It is important that we lead by example in this place and that we act, because people have a right to feel safe wherever they work, whether that is in Parliament or anywhere. I pay tribute to the individuals, particularly the women, who have come forward and had the courage to speak out when many hundreds before them have not. My heart goes out to those who may be listening to today’s debate who have experienced sexual harassment or bullying in this place before these procedures have come forward. I hope that they can find some comfort in the fact that we are dealing with this in such a professional way. Parliament is overwhelmingly a good place to work, but there are instances when that is not the case. It is important for us and we have a responsibility to deal with that.

Although this is in a much broader context, Madam Deputy Speaker, I hope you do not mind my touching on the work of the Women and Equalities Committee. As the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips), my fellow Committee member, will know—she is in the Chamber—we are looking at the issue of sexual harassment at work and the importance of recognising that the issues that we find challenging here in Parliament are part of a much wider context. It is a little disappointing that although back in 2007, organisations such as the Equal Opportunities Commission were looking at sexual harassment in work—it was one of its top-priority agenda items—the Equality and Human Rights Commission did not pick this up when it was established. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will know that the International Labour Organisation is bringing forward an international convention against sexual harassment at work. It began work on that in 2015. These are not new issues; they have been around for many, many years. I am glad that Parliament is leading the way and I hope that others will pick up some of the recommendations that we are putting forward today and, indeed, will be working on this themselves.

The Leader of the House is absolutely right to say that this is the beginning of a process. We need to keep some questions in mind as we move forward to reviews of the process in the next few months and years. It is important that we keep a close eye on the independence of the process from political parties and, in particular, the Whips. This process needs to be independent of that very intricate network that we have in this place.

I would also like to talk about confidentiality. All the evidence that was given to our Select Committee suggests that confidentiality is absolutely vital. The Leader of the House is entirely right to protect that, because the confidentiality of complainants is what matters. This is nothing to do with a lack of transparency regarding the behaviour of Members of Parliament. If we do not embrace that, this system will fail. It is important that others understand that, including perhaps those who have not looked at this issue in quite the detail that my right hon. Friend has. We are protecting the confidentiality of the complainant.

I would like to ask the Leader of the House a couple of questions. She touched on the issue of complaints about behaviour that predate the 2017 cut-off. This is vital. We ask companies and other organisations to deal with behaviour that is historical, yet it can feel as though this process does not take events that predate 2017 as seriously as those that post-date 2017. I understand the complexities of doing that, but will she reassurance me that any complaints that predate 2017 are dealt with in the same way with regard to confidentiality as those that are more recent? That is really important.

Perhaps my right hon. Friend can also think about ways in which we can give more advice to Members about how they deal with issues as they arise. That is another issue with which the Select Committee is having to deal. If an individual Member, or indeed a member of staff, witnesses sexual harassment or bullying behaviour, is that person obliged to report it, and if not, why not? We need to give Members that important advice, because we cannot allow bystanders simply to watch things going on without acting. This is a live issue. The Leader of the House may wish to read the Select Committee’s report when it is published next Wednesday—it deals with tackling the issue in the professions, where people are obviously obliged to behave in the right way.

In March, along with other Members, I attended a session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. There I met a member of the community delegation, who told us that members of the Canadian Cabinet were receiving training on sexual harassment that week. I should like some reassurance from my right hon. Friend that she can use her position to ensure that the same happens here, and happens speedily, right to the top of our organisation.

How we deal with bullying and sexual harassment really matters. This new process will build people’s confidence in the system, and as a result we may see an increasing number of complaints. That is not a sign that our organisation is in trouble. It is completely the opposite: it is a sign that the organisation is getting to grips with a problem, and gaining the confidence of its employees by talking about these issues more openly than has ever been the case in the past.

Again, I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend. This is an extraordinary step forward for Parliament, and I hope that the Select Committee will be able to look at the reviews of the system as and when they are published.

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It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller), who chairs the Women and Equalities Committee, and I look forward to the publication of her report next week. I think that it will make a useful contribution to the general debate that we are having about these issues in the House.

Let me start by thanking the Leader of the House for her opening contribution, and congratulating her on the leadership that she offered throughout the deliberations of the steering group. It seems a long time since the group was formed after all the party leaders had met. This has been quite a journey, as I think all of us who have been involved will agree. Certainly, during my 17 years in the House, I have not been involved in a piece of work that has been so detailed, so considered and so comprehensively reviewed, and rewritten on several occasions.

That says a great deal about the diligence of all the members of the group, many of whom are in the Chamber today, and the amount of work and effort that we have all been prepared to put in—particularly in trying to get down to London from Scotland on Monday afternoons in time for the meetings with staff. I think that that effort should be recognised. I also thank all the members of the secretariat who are sitting in their Boxes this afternoon for their hard work, and the commitment and the sheer effort that have gone into the delivery of this very good report.

The report is a joint piece of work which has involved Members of this House and the House of Lords, but, most important, it has involved members of staff and trade union representatives, as has already been recognised today. That is a novel and innovative way of working, and I cannot commend it enough: I think it is great. I think the involvement and buy-in of members of staff and their union representatives will give the report more credibility in the House, and that people will be reassured that it was designed not by Members of Parliament but—as the report says—by the parliamentary community. It was designed by the parliamentary community, for the parliamentary community. I hope that that will be recognised, and that the report will be accepted on that basis.

The report is a significant and ambitious piece of work, which I hope will help to redefine the culture in our Westminster workplace. Some appalling incidents and issues arose towards the end of last year, and we recognised then that something awful was happening in our workplace that had to be tackled. The efforts made by all parties in the House to do that properly should be commended. I think that the most important part of the report is the first sentence of the first paragraph, which states:

“It is vital that all those who engage with Parliament, whether working or visiting, are treated with dignity and respect”.

That is an obvious statement, but it cannot be repeated enough. It underpins every other part of the report, and every part of the work that we have undertaken.

In the last few months, we have tried to make sense of the motion that was passed in February, when the House agreed unanimously to proceed. The way in which the workstreams have been designed during those months has been very helpful and useful, enabling us to identify particular issues that needed to be addressed and ensure that there was a practical way forward. Hopefully, we now have a robust and effective regime that everyone in Parliament will be able to endorse and support.

That regime offers a strong foundation to promote better behaviour and improve the culture of Parliament. It delivers the commitments set out in the motion that was passed by the House in February, and, specifically, it helps to deliver a new behaviour code that recognises the need for Parliament to meet the highest ethical standards of integrity, courtesy and mutual respect. That has underpinned the work of the group over the past few months.

There will be an independent complaints and grievance scheme to underpin the code. There will be procedures to deal with reports of sexual harassment, which will include the provision of a specialist independent sexual violence advocate service and an independent specialist investigator. There will be a system of training to support the code, and work will be done to effect cultural change in order to support its principles. The Leader of the House is right: no other legislature in the world has attempted to do such ambitious work in this regard. Hopefully, it will set a standard for other legislatures not just throughout the United Kingdom but throughout the world, by showing what can be done when everyone gets together and tries to make progress.

There is always more to be done. As the report says, reviews will be held six and 18 months after implementation to ensure that we have made the necessary progress and can address the many issues that will doubtless arise. I am pretty certain that we have not managed to cover everything. I know that there have been many conversations and debates about other matters that could have been included in the report. I think that the reviews will be a useful starting point which will help us to establish whether anything needs to be covered further, and will, I hope, define and determine future work and inform the policies of the future.

Several issues consumed the group. For instance, we spent a great deal of time dealing with the issue of historic cases. I think there was general disappointment that the new scheme could not cover such cases, and we tried at least to do something to ensure that they could be taken up. Legal advice has, of course, been swirling around, and I invite Members to read, in the appendices of the report, about the advice that the group secured, so that they can reach their own conclusions.

I hope that what the Leader of the House has said about enabling people to come forward with historic cases will satisfy the House. It is disappointing that that could not be included in the scheme, but there is a route for such cases to be addressed, and I hope that Members will find that sufficient. We are well aware of the Dame Laura Cox review, and hope that it will inform some of the views that we will be able to take in six months’ time, when we presume that Dame Laura will be able to report to Parliament.

I think that the new direction offered to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is equally important. We concluded that the PCS remained the only viable authority for the assessment and handling of sanctions. Being asked to consider issues relating to behaviour and bullying will present new and significant challenges. However, the commissioner is entirely independent, and it is almost impossible to ensure that the independence currently enjoyed by the PCS can be replicated elsewhere. Obviously, the report contains new guidance on the operation of the PCS.

The chairman of the Committee on Standards, the right hon. Member for Rother Valley (Sir Kevin Barron), has tabled an amendment to the motion, and several concerns have been raised about transparency. That is just one of the tensions that emerged throughout our deliberations. I think that every member of the steering group was profoundly disappointed by the prospect of the loss of a degree of transparency to address the issue of confidentiality for those who might be minded to come forward. I will listen carefully to what is said by the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) before I finally decide on my position, but I am veering towards what was said by the Leader of the House, and I hope to be able to accept her views on confidentiality. That has to be at the centre; everything has to start from that.

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Would the hon. Gentleman be happy as a Member of this House if somebody went to the local press and said that he had been accused of breaching the code of conduct—not the new code of conduct, but the current one—and there was nobody to deny that an investigation was taking place, so he just had to accept the accusation?

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In all honesty and candour, I would not be happy with that, but we are trying to secure that the starting point is confidentiality for the people who come forward. There are compromises and things that are uncomfortable and unsatisfactory, and perhaps in the six-month review—this is a request to the Leader of the House—we can start to look at this again. I understand totally both sides of this: I hate the idea that we are losing transparency on issues to do with the normal work of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, and we must try to address this further.

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I understand the concerns about people coming forward, but for non-ICGP complaints, we have had a system for several years whereby, as soon as an allegation is made and it is open to investigation, it becomes public, and there is no evidence that that deters people from making reports for investigation, so I urge the hon. Gentleman to consider the amendment sympathetically. It does not mean that those who report allegations of bullying and harassment will not have their confidentiality protected; it is simply in respect of complaints that we have already investigated, over many years, and the way in which the Committee wishes to continue to investigate.

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Again, I do not disagree with anything the hon. Lady says. That is why I am torn between both positions. I accept the need for consistency to ensure that confidentiality is at the heart of what we do, and I also want to deal with the issues the hon. Lady raises.

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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his considered words on this, and I want to assure all Members that this is not about rolling back transparency. I have asked whether the Standards Committee might consider a time-limited removal of that. I completely accept what the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) said—that since 2010, the PCS has been able to name an individual on whom she is opening an investigation—but her role has significantly changed, and to have one process for non-ICGP and a separate one for ICGP is confusing. I asked the Committee whether it would consider dropping it for the first six months while the new procedure gets up and running, and it refused, which I find slightly astonishing. This is a genuine attempt—I do not think anyone would accuse me of not making a genuine attempt—to put confidentiality at the heart of the process for the sake of the complainant.

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I have no issue with the Leader of the House on that; I accept that she has tried to do that, and I think we have all been trying to do so, but unfortunately we are at a point where there are disagreements among those of us who have been involved in this report, and we now see the amendment of the right hon. Member for Rother Valley and hear the concerns of the Standards Committee. I still want to hear from colleagues before I make a final decision, but I am veering towards the view of the Leader of the House on this. We must be consistent in how we deal with all these cases in this House.

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I have just checked Standing Order No. 150(12)(b) again, and its wording will not protect anonymity if there is no change. I am disappointed that the motion is not quite right and nor is the amendment. Therefore, because of the risk the amendment brings of breaching the confidentiality of a reporter in these cases, it cannot be supported, but we must address this issue in the six-month review and get it absolutely right.

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That is a very helpful intervention, and perhaps the Leader of the House will confirm in summing up that this will be at the heart of the six-month review. Out of all the issues we have had to look at, this has been the most controversial and the most debated. If she can give an assurance to those of us in the group who are conflicted about this, that would go some way to assuaging my concerns, and perhaps those of Committee colleagues. I therefore ask for a solid commitment from the Leader of the House that this will be at the heart of the six-month review.

I want to address a couple of other important matters. The most important of them is training; this is a critical part of the report. The ideal situation is that the measures in this report are never deployed, and that means assisting Members and staff in how the code will apply. I am pleased that the features included in the training pack will be as follows: what constitutes bullying and harassment and sexual misconduct; the impact of inappropriate behaviours; the impact of power and unconscious bias on behaviours; ways to help prevent all forms of bullying and harassment at work; what to do if unacceptable behaviour happens; the role of the manager in preventing all forms of bullying and harassment at work; and informal and formal approaches to tackling unacceptable behaviours.

This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make the change needed to ensure that we all consider what we can all do to promote dignity and respect in our workplace. We encourage all members of the parliamentary community to support this scheme wholeheartedly and to uphold the important values it promotes. Some 15,000 people work in and around the parliamentary estate; I do not know how many visitors we get per year, but I suspect it is a greater number than that. We must make sure we serve them all and that anybody who has any contact with this House will be treated with the dignity and respect that underpin this report.

One thing that should unite everyone on the estate is the conviction that all who work here have a right to expect to work in an environment that is free from bullying and harassment, especially sexual harassment. There should be zero tolerance of any inappropriate behaviour. Parliament has to lead, because Parliament is the forum of our national debate and the centre of our democracy. We would shirk our responsibility if we did not tackle this issue and put out the strongest possible statement that such behaviour is unacceptable in this place. If we do not lead and establish solid procedures and processes to deal with our own issues, we will let down the people in every office block and every institution throughout the country, so it is our job to do this. We have to set the example, and I believe that this document does that. I hope the entire House wholeheartedly supports it.

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I beg to move amendment (a), in paragraph (4), leave out from “Report;” to the end.

I wish to begin by paying tribute to the work of the Leader of the House and her colleagues on the steering group. The Select Committee on Standards has worked very closely with the steering group on the various work-streams over the past few months. There is one issue over which we disagree, and I have tabled an amendment to deal with it, which I will come to shortly. Because I and some of my Committee colleagues have tabled that amendment, under the rules of procedure we are not able to put our names to the main motion; otherwise, I personally would certainly have done so.

I want to emphasise that, this one area apart, the Standards Committee is completely in accord with the steering group and its delivery report. We strongly support the work that has been done to bring Parliament into the modern age in terms of personal conduct. This is not about complicated rules or codes or Standing Orders; it is about ordinary human decency.

People should not bully or harass other people. They should not sexually harass them or abuse their power. That is obvious, and yet not everyone in this institution has behaved in a morally decent way. Parliament should be giving a lead on this, but we have been lagging behind. The Standards Committee made a big effort some years ago to expand the code of conduct to include some aspects of personal behaviour, but this was undermined when it came to be decided in the House by what I may call today “the forces of reaction”. Now we have another chance, and we must take it.

The Committee set out its views in a report published last week. This focuses on matters which are the direct responsibility of the Committee—in particular, complaints against Members and the role of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. We have worked with the steering group to develop proposals to ensure that Members are properly held to account while maintaining an independent, fair, trusted and effective process.

We support the new parliamentary behaviour code. We propose that it should be incorporated in the Members’ code of conduct, alongside an additional rule stating that:

“A Member shall treat his or her staff, and all those working for or with Parliament with dignity, courtesy and respect.”

This will ensure that Members can be held fully to account for any instances of bullying, harassment or sexual harassment. The motion before the House today will achieve that.

We have given a great deal of thought to how the complaints process will work under the new system. Clearly it has to be sensitive, and supportive of the people who wish to bring forward complaints, but at the same time it must follow the principles of natural justice and be fair to the people who are complained about. We believe that the new system should build on the strengths of the existing system, in particular the role of the independent parliamentary commissioner, while tackling some of its weaknesses. We and the steering group propose that investigations relating to complaints against Members should be overseen by the independent commissioner.

In our report, we set out the background of the current commissioner, Kathryn Stone, who was recruited on merit through open and fair competition. She has a background in child protection and social care, and she has shown independent-mindedness in previous posts, including the particularly sensitive posts of commissioner of victims and survivors in Northern Ireland, commissioner of the Independent Police Complaints Commission and chief legal ombudsman for England and Wales. She also ran a charity for victims of crime, including sexual offences, for 11 years. I have had the privilege of seeing Kathryn in operation, and I have no doubt at all that she is a tough-minded person who will be fiercely independent in carrying out her new responsibilities.

The role of the Committee on Standards under the new system will be to carry out any appeal function that might be required. The ultimate decision on sanctions in serious cases will be taken by the House itself on the basis of a report on the case from the Committee, with the complainant anonymised and the report subjected to any redactions that the Committee considers necessary to protect the complainant. I know that some people are sceptical about involving the Committee because they think it will be a case of MPs marking their own homework. I have heard that view quite a few times in the media. I understand that point of view, but it does not reflect the reality of how the Committee operates. In particular, it does not take account of the crucial role of our independent lay members. There are now equal numbers of lay members and MPs on the Committee.

The lay members’ role is not widely understood. Our report gives more detail on this, and I urge Members to read it. In particular, they might like to look at the CVs of the lay members, which are set out in the appendix. They are members of the public, chosen on merit through open and fair competition, from diverse backgrounds and with a wide spread of experience and skills. None of them has been an MP, and nor are they in any way part of what people would call the parliamentary establishment. In general, the lay members work closely and harmoniously with the elected Members.

The Committee—like other Select Committees, and arguably more than most—proceeds by consensus. I have chaired other Select Committees in this House that have not had the type of consensus that the Committee on Standards works to. However, the lay members do not have voting rights—which we are aware of now—partly because of a concern that to confer such rights on them might open the work of the Committee to challenge in the courts. This concern is based on the ground that it is not a properly constituted Select Committee entitled to the protection of article 9 of the Bill of Rights 1689. Notwithstanding this, any lay member has the power to append an opinion to a report of the Committee. That power has never been exercised, but it has been seen as an essential safeguard for the lay members’ independence. Any one of them could at any time express an opinion on any of our reports dealing with Members’ conduct, but they have never done so because of the consensual way in which we operate and because of the fairness with which we adjudicate against Members of the House.

Indeed, there have been only two occasions on which formal votes have been held since lay members first joined the Standards Committee. The most recent was in May this year. That led us to review our procedures, because there was clearly a flaw in the arrangements. Lay members can append an opinion to a Committee report but they do not have such a right if the Committee divides on a motion not relating to a report. As a general rule, this does not matter because most Committee decisions relate to reports. Reports are how we announce our decisions on individual cases. However, at the meeting in May, two votes took place on motions relating to the commissioner’s right to start an investigation. This drew attention to the fact that lay members had, in those unusual circumstances, no way of putting their views on record.

We have therefore introduced a new system of what we call indicative votes. This means that before the Committee has a formal vote involving only MPs, it should have a non-binding vote involving the whole Committee. We give more detail about this in our report. The motion before the House today will make this binding on the Committee, as we requested. In fact, the motion goes further than we requested, because it requires indicative votes to take place before all Divisions, including those on reports. We discussed this in the Committee last Tuesday and we are entirely happy with that. I should repeat that the vast majority of Committee decisions are taken by consensus. The point of the new procedure is to make it even less likely that things will be pushed to a formal vote. I certainly hope that that will be the case.

I should also mention that it would be wrong to think of the Committee as consisting of two opposing blocs: lay members and MPs. Except in relation to formal voting, both types of members are treated in exactly the same way and we work as a unified team. We are aware that indicative votes are an interim measure. Along with a majority of my colleagues on the Committee, I would like to see full voting rights given to lay members. We have called on the Government to bring forward primary legislation to guarantee that free speech in the Committee is protected by parliamentary privilege, as set down in the Bill of Rights 1689, in order to allow the extension of full voting rights to lay members. I hope that the Government will respond positively to this request.

Finally, I come to the one point of disagreement between the Committee and the steering group. This relates to the proposal in the motion to change the existing system under which the commissioner publishes details of ongoing investigations on her website. We entirely accept and support an extension of confidentiality in relation to complaints under the new system, particularly in relation to sexual harassment. There is a real need to ensure that victims of sexual harassment are given the confidence to use the new system, and confidentiality will play an important part in achieving that. We set out in detail in our report how this will operate, and we are in agreement with the steering group on that.

The difficulty for us arises from the proposal to extend confidentiality to complaints under the existing code that relate not to bullying and harassment but to financial misconduct or the abuse of House facilities. At the moment, the commissioner announces the names of Members when she launches an investigation, along with a brief statement as to the nature of the alleged offence. We can see from the commissioner’s annual report that the vast majority of complaints that go to her never get anywhere near to an investigation. They normally involved wild allegations that are made without substance or evidence, and they effectively go nowhere. Of those that are investigated, very few come to the Committee for adjudication. The commissioner rectifies people’s misapplication of the rules on issues such as the misuse of parliamentary envelopes, for example, so we do not see that this is a major issue for the House.

The rules were agreed by the House some years ago in the wake of the expenses scandal, and were seen then as an important way of demonstrating transparency and openness. I was on the Standards Committee from 2005 to 2010, and I was a winger during the expenses scandal. I can tell the House that there was a real need for openness at that time, and a real need to let the people of this country know that we were being transparent and open in our dealings on their behalf. We believe that transparency and openness should continue to apply. There is no doubt that if the House votes for the Leader of the House’s motion today without amendment, many people outside will criticise us for rolling back the openness that was agreed back in 2010 following the expenses scandal.

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My question is simple. Under the plans proposed by the Leader of the House, is there any chance at all that an MP who is under investigation for sexual misconduct would be named?

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No, there is not, and I will go on to that. What the amendment does to paragraph 4 comes after the issue to which the hon. Lady just alluded. We are not going to stop anything. As I have said, confidentiality is crucial to the policy’s success.

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The reality is that this is about amendment of the Standing Orders, which govern the procedures of the House, so while I accept that the motion is not necessarily in the right place, without the amendment it could lead to the identity of a reporter being exposed.

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I will say—this is an aside—that I have been in this House for 35 years, and I have seen many allegations made against Members of Parliament for all sorts of reasons. Quite a lot of them come from the press, the television or stings in the media, and the idea that we have anything to shy away from in these decisions is not true. We agree that sexual harassment and bullying cases require confidentiality to ensure that people will come forward and speak out so that action can be taken. The Committee carefully considered the Leader of the House’s arguments for making the changes, and we understand why she has put them forward. However, we do not think that they outweigh the reputational damage that may arise if we go ahead with this proposal as drafted. It will be presented as MPs trying to cover up their misdoings.

The proposal is also good news for anyone who wants to smear an MP. They can simply tell the media that the Member has broken a rule and is under investigation, and, since the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards will effectively be gagged, she will not be able to confirm or deny it. The rumour will continue and no one will have the authority to put the record straight. Members ought to remember that that could happen. On most occasions, that is how things work for the Committee on Standards as it operates under the current code of conduct.

The proposal goes beyond the independent complaints and grievance policy and is not essential to it. We do not believe that the publication of whether a Member is under investigation will cause irreparable damage to that Member’s reputation. I could cite the example of the right hon. Member for South West Surrey (Mr Hunt), who was recently under investigation by the commissioner following a complaint. It was in the national press and on national television, but it does not seem to have done his career any harm whatsoever because he was appointed Foreign Secretary last week.

The Committee was unanimous on the issue. All the lay members have written a joint letter to me, which has just been posted on our website, and I will read out the key paragraphs:

“Through our involvement in the work of the Committee we recognise the unusual, and sometimes precarious, nature of the role of MPs, the media interest they deal with on a daily basis and therefore, the importance MPs rightly place on their reputation. We also recognise the importance of the reputation of the House and the impact the actions and behaviours of MPs can have on how this is viewed.

Our experience to date suggests that publication of an announcement that an investigation is taking place does not cause significant damage to an MP’s reputation and, on a number of occasions, the matter is already in the public domain through the media. Therefore, in our view, the announcement can provide assurance that concerns are being handled independently and in a fair and impartial manner.

Our view is that the current practice followed by the Parliamentary Commissioner on Standards, and explicitly agreed by the House in 2010, creates the right balance between the individual reputation of MPs and the collective reputation of the House. Any proposals to limit this approach would be a detrimental step in continuing to build the credibility of the reputation of the House.”

I think those views make the case for the amendment very well.

The reason why the Committee on Standards has lay members is probably because, back in 1999, I was appointed as a lay member of the General Medical Council. Three Members of Parliament were appointed to it at time, and I dealt with fitness-to-practice cases where doctors were in front of us, for example, and I thought that I played a constructive role. The first time that I said that the Committee on Standards ought to have lay members I remember a few sets of eyes widening, but the way that the lay members have operated for years now has been to the credit of this House. It certainly gives us a lot more credibility than if MPs were marking their own homework. When this motion is put to a vote, I hope that Members will recognise that lay members are helping us to change the culture in Parliament, just as the report does, which I do not take anything away from.

Obviously, the Committee on Standards will accept the decision of the House on this matter, and my colleagues on the Committee and I look forward to giving every assistance we can to the new complaints system as it is implemented. I repeat my congratulations to the steering group on its marvellous work. The acceptance of the report today marks significant progress towards building further public confidence in the standards expected of all Members of the House and shows our determination to uphold the rules if they are not met.

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I want to add my voice to the many people who have spoken already and to the many voices who have called me since they met with the Leader of the House and saw the proposals—the voices of the many women and men involved who brought us to this point—in saying what a positive step forwards this is. As someone who has been a naysayer all the way through the process, I thought that it would never be good enough—there would have to be a million tick boxes to satisfy me—but what is outlined in this very detailed and quite long document is to be commended, and I feel confident that people will and should bring cases forward.

It will be a massive pleasure for me to no longer be the referral system for victims of violence in this building. I have been exhausted by the stories that I have heard since the situation started to break in October last year. I think that I am up to around 50 complaints about Members from a variety of people from different political parties and others who work in and around politics. It will be delightful to hand those cases over.

It would be wrong of me to say, as the right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller) has already outlined, that I do not have concerns about historical cases, not least because most of the cases that caused us to do anything will not necessarily be able to go through this system. I have deep trust in the Leader of the House and in her desire to make this right and to make sure that wherever possible, regardless of when a situation may have happened, there are still ways for this system to look after, care for and respond to victims and to give them independent advice on how to manoeuvre around the system.

It has always been a part of our code of conduct, whether in 1864 or today, that we must not bring this House into disrepute, which is an enormously broad term. I would argue, and I do not think it is up for debate, that sexually harassing our staff brings this House into disrepute. My right hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Sir Kevin Barron) rightly said that we should all have great faith in the credentials of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, as well as in her attitude and tone. The way she works with Members of Parliament should fill people with hope for the system, and she has plenty of scope to take complaints from people who may not fall within the 2017 issue raised by this specific report, but there are still things in the code of conduct that have definitely been broken in many of the cases I have heard, so I look forward to the review.

It is brilliant that we have a six-month review, and it is a new way of doing things around here that, after we sign a piece paper on day one, we do not just believe that nothing has to change and that everything will be perfect. This system will absolutely be tested by the first person who goes through it.

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Does the hon. Lady share my concern about how the amendment might incite idle speculation about the identity of victims, which we know could be devastating to those individuals?

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I thank my friend, the right hon. Lady, for her intervention. I am not convinced by that argument. I worry about the identity of those who come forward being at risk in all such situations, and there are Members who have not behaved well in that regard and who have released things about people to try to shut things down. There are all sorts of reasons why we have to be very careful about how we handle this.

It is right that these cases should be anonymous, although I would never argue for the same in the criminal courts—I do not believe in anonymity for those accused in the criminal courts, which is a battle that many in this House seek to win. We manage in the criminal courts to maintain complete anonymity for victims and complete transparency for the accused. If that can be managed in a very open environment such as the courts, where the public can go in to sit and watch, I have faith that we can manage it here.

I have faith in the commissioner and in the Committee on Standards. However, I worry about how it looks that we are trying to pull back on transparency. To be completely honest, it seems to me like the deal had to be done to get this through. I put aside pretending that I think it is anything else.

The Leader of the House deserves complete and utter credit, because I am certain that she wanted exactly the system that I wanted. She has been vocal all the way through, and she realises how much this affects victims and how much it affects women as they go about their work. I have no doubt that, had it been entirely down to her sitting in a room, I would be having a ticker tape parade. To be honest, requiring anonymity was a deal done by somebody in a Whips Office or somebody on some committee that controls one of our political parties. I have no evidence to suggest that; I am enjoying my parliamentary privilege. Frankly, with the 50 cases I know of, there are a lot of people in this House who should be grateful that I do not enjoy my parliamentary privilege quite as much as I could—I leave it there.

It is important that the system has independent elements, including lay members, one of whom I know and trust incredibly well. She is a brilliant woman from Birmingham, and I feel safe in her hands. People could go through all sorts of different systems before they ever become a Member of Parliament, and one thing that needs to come from this is that the political parties really need to get their act together. The political parties are nowhere near as good as what is being presented to us today. Some parties have walked forward a little, and when I say walked, I mean dragged. I cannot comment on others, but I think that the Conservatives have been working on new systems.

I very much doubt that in any of the cases I have handled—they are numerous—people have been satisfied with the political parties and the processes they have gone through. Every day, I take complaints about the processes that people are put through by the political parties without an element of independence—by an element of independence, I mean the total foundation of independence. Neither the complainant nor the person who is complained against will ever feel protected by those systems, so I call on Government and Opposition Front Benchers to take back to their political parties what they have worked to achieve here in this place today.

I agree with the right hon. Member for Basingstoke that, perhaps at the six-month review, we need to consider a whistleblowing or bystander element, because we all see all sorts of things going on in here. We need to be confident, our staff need to be confident, the Doorkeepers need to be confident and the people in the Lobby need to be confident in knowing whether or not they should be reporting such things. I seek to have that in future.

Once again, I commend the Leader of the House, the working group and the brilliant people who advised them, some of whom I deeply trust. Finally, a massive thank you to the victims who stepped forward, because none of us would be standing here without their bravery. They are considerably braver than we are.

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I apologise for not rising to my feet quicker, but I was looking at Standing Order No. 150.

I should have started by saying what an honour and a privilege it has been to sit on the steering committee, albeit for an incredibly short amount of time, as I stood in for my hon. Friend the Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson). I am sure many will agree that not just in this process, but in her former role as a Minister, she has been an inspiration on such matters.

I also pay tribute to the Leader of the House, to every other member of the committee and, of course, to all the staff. I have been a Member for just over a year, and the committee has been a remarkably collegiate cross-party effort. The process has been wonderfully thoughtful and absolutely driven by the evidence. Nothing has been left unquestioned, and the tone and nature of this debate, which has caused me to go on the internet to look up paragraph (12) of Standing Order No. 150, is a credit to the process. We need to get into that level of detail.

It is crucial in all these matters that six and 18-month reviews months are held at those times and there is no dithering, but it was also crucial that we got going. There were points at which we felt, “There’s so much to do. Are we going to get this done by recess?” It was crucial that we did, and it is good that we have moved forward. When thinking about whether or not we support amendments, we need to think of the perhaps dozens or more victims who will consider coming forward as soon as the procedure has been published. They want to tell their story and have probably been waiting for the past nine months to get going on that. Above all, we must put them first. I do not think the 18-month review needs to be the last review. I wish to put on record that as the 18-month review will come exactly a year after the six-month review, we will then need a yearly review of procedures, because these things always change over time. It is important that we are never again left in a position where this place is behind the rest of the country. I want to see the process for such reviews written down somewhere, because we have left it that the 18-month review could possibly be followed by further reviews, and I would like to see that formalised.

Let me deal with the issue of historical allegations. We now expect a large number of people to come forward. I hope that they do come forward, because that is what they need to achieve closure. Regrettably, it feels as though it was more wrong to engage in some of this behaviour before the start of the last Parliament and, of course, it was not—for the whole of my life it has never been right to bully anyone or to sexually harass anyone. Of course, I know that that is not the sentiment of what the steering group was trying to achieve, but one must always read these things from the point of view of someone who is looking at the procedures for the first time. I hope that the inquiry will have enough teeth to achieve not only some closure and signposting, but, when possible, redress for the victim and punishment for the perpetrator.

Let me deal with the point about transparency, which was why I was frantically looking at my iPad. I do not want any of those potentially dozens of people coming forward to the House to feel that there is any chance that they could be identified, so I have played around with a few scenarios of how this might work in my head. Currently, neither the amendment, the Standing Order nor the motion absolutely guarantees that an MP’s name will not be published. We know how small our offices are, and this is one of the reasons why the optics are so bad. Most people out there do not appreciate that in my office I have just one parliamentary assistant. They think we have large teams behind us, but that is just not the case. In Portcullis House, these people’s names are written on plaques by the names of the MP, so it is easy enough for a journalist or anyone else to wander around, see one of these names and then try to catch the person in a bar outside. My concern is that if ever there was a chance that that could happen, that would be front and centre in the mind of a complainant considering coming forward.

I will not say more than this, but there have been two occasions in my life as a candidate when I was a victim of some sexual harassment, albeit not terribly and not enough that I took it to anything formal. I know that many other Members have done that, as have many other staff members in this place, who are particularly but not exclusively female. The No. 1 thing in my mind was, “This is hard enough to say, and it is hard enough to even admit to.” If there was any chance that I could have been identified, I certainly would not have then gone on to flag this through the right channels.

At the moment, there is that chance. I am not at all questioning the background of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards or asking whether we are not all in agreement on this point. However, given Standing Order No. 150 as it stands—and even without any of the amendments to it—I am not entirely convinced that we have gone far enough with this. To echo what other Members have said, I believe that this needs to be front and centre of what we look at in the six-month review, along with things such as mandatory reporting from third parties who see such behaviour, as part of the culture change.

Victims need to come before optics. I have not come to this place just to do what makes me look good; I have come to this place to do what is absolutely right. I am not saying that others have not done that, but at the moment I am not totally convinced that we have got this 100% right for victims.

I shall end by talking about culture change. I am told that I am the oldest type of millennial that one can be, and this is my third career. I have worked in countless places. On walking into this building on the Monday after my declaration, which came on the Friday at 4 am, I found the induction and training for MPs and MPs’ staff to be the worst of any employer I have ever been to. That is partly because we employ ourselves; in essence, we are entrepreneurs, with mini offices. That was not something that I understood even as a candidate, even though one would think that a candidate would look at what they were getting into—I should point out that it was a snap election. People out there perhaps do not realise that about this place, but we do and we have known it for a long time. I thought for a while that perhaps that was because I am a Member from a smaller party and that the bigger parties would have stronger processes for induction and so on, but that is not the case.

The point about putting culture change at the heart of what we are doing through this grievance procedure is key, because if something gets to the point of a complaint, we have already failed, as someone has already been hurt somewhere. Leaving aside malicious complaints, if a genuine complaint is made and upheld, something has gone wrong. This should be the best place to work for anybody in the entire country, but we have lagged behind for a very long time. Let us stop that now and pass this motion. We should be immensely proud of the proposal. All political parties need to catch up, but it is not just political parties that need to act, because we should be a beacon of good practice for the rest of the country. Let that start today. I was pleased to put my name to the motion and I am delighted to have been part of the process. Let us never fall behind again.

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Westminster is the first Parliament anywhere in the world to have tackled bullying, harassment and sexual harassment so comprehensively, and huge progress has been made towards making this place a safer, more respectful and more equal environment. I join those who have thanked all members of the working group for their contributions. In particular, I pay tribute to its chair, the Leader of the House, for her commitment to change, her leadership and her seemingly unending patience. I also want to thank the secretariat, our special advisers, the staff representatives on the group, and those who came to speak to us on behalf of their trade unions to increase our understanding of the issues we were seeking to address. As others have said, more than anyone else we need to thank those who were brave enough to come forward and put in the public domain the kind of experiences they have had to go through, because that has been a driving force for all of us to work with the urgency and commitment that we have.

The report, and its policy and procedures, are really important steps, and it is welcome that we have built in from the outset mechanisms to ensure this is the start rather than the end of an ongoing process—others have referred to those. Although we are rightly celebrating what we have achieved, we must be mindful of what more there is still to do. I hope that the Leader of the House will forgive me if I concentrate on the areas where I think we have further to go, rather than simply celebrating what we have achieved. That is not because I do not think we have achieved a lot, but if we are to be the best we can be, we still have a bit of a way to go.

I wish to start by discussing making the final stages of the new system more independent—truly independent. I know that every effort has been made to guarantee independence at the point when reports are made and investigations are carried out. I hope that that will give everyone in Westminster renewed confidence in the system, and that all bullying, harassment and sexual harassment will be treated with the seriousness and objectivity to which all workplaces should aspire.

The principle of full independence is still somewhat undermined by allowing MPs to play a role in final decision making about serious complaints involving colleagues. The motion goes some way towards addressing that, for example by recommending that lay members of the Standards Committee are allowed an indicative vote, but the final decision to trigger the recall of an MP will still be subject to a vote of the House of Commons and, at least as it stands, lay members of the Committee still do not have full parity with MPs. I note with much approval that the Chair of the Standards Committee, the right hon. Member for Rother Valley (Sir Kevin Barron), is in favour of looking again at the role of lay members and has put on record that he is in favour of primary legislation to establish the absolutely equality of lay members in a Standards Committee vote.

Some aspects of the process are still left in the hands of MPs. One of the obstacles to further reform and making the system genuinely independent was concern that an MP might launch legal action if someone unelected had a say in a recall decision. I remain of the view that, with the right political will, that and other objections could be overcome. Recall rightly leaves the ultimate decision in the hands of the electorate, so a mechanism that, for example, gave the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards the power in some instances to trigger the recall process herself, could offer a way for MPs to be further removed from the process. I appreciate that that is a radical proposal and I do not expect it to find agreement in the House at the moment, but to my mind it is the logical consequence when we say, again and again, that MPs should not mark their own homework. Only such a radical proposal would ultimately ensure genuine independence from party political influence from start to finish.

I very much hope that the possibilities I have outlined, and others, to build on what has been achieved to date will be reviewed as a priority, because staff otherwise risk continuing to lose out through a system that still protects MPs just that little bit more. That risk is also there when it comes to the handling of historical complaints. It is important to be clear that the new independent inquiry will hear reports of historical complaints. The new system will allow those affected to access emotional support and signposting to next steps. That will mostly be either to party political grievance mechanisms, the police or, in the case of House staff, the previous Respect policy. It is widely agreed, however, that the Respect policy was not fit for purpose in respect of such issues. Historical complaints referred to the new process cannot result in outcomes or sanctions other than those that were permissible at the time of the incident. That is even more the case for behaviours that have clearly always been wrong, such as sexual harassment or bullying, but which Respect has been shown to be unable to deal with fairly.

Staff employed by MPs were never covered by Respect, and those not employed by their party have no prior system to have recourse to in the case of a historical complaint, if they seek more than the opportunity to be heard and to get emotional support. Those employed by political parties have that route but, as we know, there are signs that the promises made by every political party to get their own houses in order have not yet been properly fulfilled. In other words, the decision to impose an arbitrary 2017 cut-off point for historical complaints, alongside the independent inquiry, does not take us far enough. It leaves many people still unable fully to resolve their historical complaints.

There are some important and potentially game-changing provisions in the new policy and procedures, including those allowing multiple offenders to be identified and pre-2017 allegations to be referenced if a live case involves the same parties. But we should not let those real positives cloud the fact that some staff continue to be let down. The working group received legal advice noting the increasing difficulty of delivering fairness the further back in time one goes. That is true, but the advice also made it clear that, if there was enough political will, ways could be found to accommodate that. In some instances, for example, there may be written evidence that makes wrongdoing very clear. I hope that the six-month review will look again at the 2017 cut-off date and that historical allegations will come before whatever group is set up to look into allegations, because I do not think we have got it quite right yet.

Let me say a few words about promoting long-term cultural change. Although some voluntary measures have been put in place, reforms that will deliver real and meaningful culture change, such as compulsory consent training and meaningful good employer training for all MPs and peers, have been delayed until after the next election. Apparently, the justification is that nobody knew when they stood for election that they would have to undertake such training. To that I say that nobody knew that when they came to work in Parliament that they might have to put up with furniture being thrown at them or being groped. Action after the next election—probably in 2022—is better than never, and Parliament’s committing to taking action at all obviously sends a powerful and positive signal, but it is still hugely frustrating that there is not more understanding of how a culture of mutual respect and accountability benefits everyone. I hope that that time will come, because we urgently need a politics that is more equal, transparent and ethical —one that tackles all kinds of bullying and harassment, and which in particular moves us beyond #MeToo and #TimesUp by helping to dismantle privilege and what are all too often male-dominated hierarchies. That will be possible only if we keep up the pressure and continue to face up to ongoing obstacles to change, which are, in too many instances, vested interests and political self-interest.

If we want genuine confidence in the new system and the ongoing commitment to transforming the Westminster culture, we need to signal clearly that we want to continue to learn and improve, and we also need to be less risk averse. This is about leadership and setting an example. We need continued bold action, and if there are fears that that will upset some of our more regressive colleagues, so be it, frankly. The new behaviour code, by which all of Westminster will be expected to abide, asks that individuals recognise their power, influence and authority and do not abuse them. I would have liked that to be included in the motion, as it goes to the heart of what we need to see.

Finally, let me address the amendment with which we are all grappling as we try to work out the best way forward. Let me say loudly and clearly that if I thought for a moment that by deleting the part of paragraph (4) of the motion proposed in the amendment we would in any way put at risk the confidentiality of victims in ICGP cases, I would not support it, but I do not believe that that is the case. I agree with the hon. Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Layla Moran) that, in a sense, we are in a position of trying to weigh up options when none of them are optimal. None of them absolutely gives us everything that we want regarding a firm guarantee of confidence and confidentiality for victims. Right from the start of my involvement in this process, I have been among the foremost of people saying that individuals should have their confidence respected. That has to be the bottom line. I do not believe that the amendment would undermine that.

What is at stake is the issue of whether consistency is more important than transparency. To my mind, transparency is more important in this instance. Consistency is nice to have, but I think we can explain why there is a difference between the way in which we treat someone who fiddles their expenses or who fiddles paperclips, and the way in which we treat people who have made allegations of sexual harassment and bulling, with follow-up investigations. We can explain that inconsistency an awful lot more easily than I would find explaining why we were rolling back on transparency. I do not think this is about optics versus the protection of victims—if I thought that, I hope everybody would know that I would of course have the protection of victims as the overall objective—but I do share the sneaking suspicion voiced by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips) that there are perhaps other forces at play that are leading us in this direction. I have no evidence of that either, but it feels like that is the more likely explanation for why we find ourselves in this difficult position.

I shall continue to listen to the debate, and particularly to the hon. Member for York Central (Rachael Maskell), because she seems to be on top of the Standing Orders, but from what I have heard so far, I do not believe that the Standards Committee’s amendment would undermine victim confidentiality. If I did believe that for one moment, I would not support it.

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We have had an excellent debate, conducted in very much the right tone. We exist in communities, not least this parliamentary community, so every decision that we make, action we take and word we speak has an impact. There are huge inequalities of power throughout society and, to date, that has also been true of this place. It is because of that inequality of power that we find ourselves where we are. It is absolutely right that we address how to put in place better systems to protect the most vulnerable in society and in our workplaces. We have all at least been caused to stop, pause, and reflect on our own behaviours, as well as those of people around us, and to ask serious questions about the leadership that this place provides.

Parliament holds the role of leadership across our nation and therefore it is incumbent on us to have the highest standards and to ensure that we reflect them in all that we do. The public watch us, which increases that responsibility. Perhaps we have witnessed or been recipients of inappropriate behaviour in private places. At the big display of Prime Minister’s Question Time, people witness, on a weekly basis, mobbing, belittling, mocking, name-calling and worse.

Given all that, are we surprised that bullying and poor behaviour are endemic across our nation? Such behaviour is endemic in workplaces. It is the biggest issue at work. A third of people in work today have experienced bullying in their working lives—72% by managers—and, of course, it has caused so many people to leave their jobs. In fact, 36% of people who have been bullied leave their employment. Heartbreakingly, we see so much bullying taking place in our schools: 40% of young people today have experienced bullying, and that is just in the past year. We have such a responsibility to set the bar high, and this is, I trust, what we have been doing during this process.

We also need to think about the wider impact on the economy: £18 billion is lost to the economy each year just because of bullying. Therefore, we have a big responsibility ahead of us. I want to thank third-sector organisations and trade unions for the amazing work that they have done to advance this issue. Parliament has arrived at this point because people had the courage to stand up and speak of their experiences in this place, and, of course, we have all paid tribute to those individuals today. I particularly want to thank the Leader of the House for the way that she has conducted our discussions and for her sheer determination to ensure that Parliament changes, and changes its culture. I also thank all members of the steering Committee—whether they be peers, MPs, House staff, trade unions, MPs’ staff and, of course, the officials, who I know have worked extraordinarily hard to reach this point.

We must see change. Today is all about how we can make that seismic change happen in this place. As we have heard, so many people are looking at us not just from the UK, but from around the world, as they reflect on their own Parliaments. Therefore, what we decide today will be of the utmost importance and culture change is at the very heart of that.

We must have permission to challenge and we must have confidence that, when we face challenge, the systems are there to protect us. That is why I very much welcome the behaviour code, which talks not only about looking at what is happening and how we behave, but about promoting our role. We have a responsibility not only to no longer be a bystander, but to speak up. We must not only ensure that our conduct does not include negative behaviours, but exhibit positive behaviours to one another. From your position, Madam Deputy Speaker, and from that of your colleagues in the Chair, I trust that you will remind us of that on a regular basis. We must ensure that we monitor the impact of this behaviour code on this place to ensure that it is doing the job that it is there to do.

We must recognise the power that we all have, how we use that power, and how misuse of power can cause such misery. I welcome the advances that have been made around sexual conduct and the fact that it has been put into the policy. Taking a zero-tolerance approach is the only way forward. Putting real specialism and expertise into our processes enhances all aspects of this and gives confidence to those who have experienced misconduct in any form.

There will be personal support for all those who report incidents. I certainly will encourage people to raise issues early; when issues are raised early, a resolution is more likely, particularly as the policy focuses on informal approaches. Of course, when the approaches are informal, we need to be very realistic about their impact, because we are still talking about an inequality of power. When we talk about mediation processes, we need to ensure that there are pre-mediation processes so that these processes do not cause further harm if they are exercised. Therefore, wisdom is needed across these processes.

That takes us on to the role of the independent investigation process. For me, this is the most powerful part of the proceedings before us. I am talking about the fact that the investigator is not only an expert in their field, but has no interest in anything other than bringing resolution and justice to the person making the claim. However, I do question—and I have done so at the steering group—the idea of having a commissioner for standards and an independent investigator. Surely, we should trust a true professional who is an independent investigator in fulfilling their whole role. They do not need somebody looking over their shoulder. They should be trusted, through their professionalism and their expertise, to carry out the role that they are trained to do. I trust that we will look at that relationship as time goes by to ensure that they can get on with their job.

I also want to raise the issue of confidentiality, which goes to the heart of the debate today. We have all been studying the motion, the amendment and, what for me is essential, the rulebook—the book that covers the way that this place works. That is why it is so important that we understand Standing Order No. 150. We need to change the rulebook, because no matter how much aspiration there is in the world, it does not bring governance. That is why it is really important that we ensure that good governance is enshrined in the rulebook. The motion has failed to achieve what it set out to do, as it opens up—or closes down perhaps—some of those opportunities. It means that those who have been reported for other reasons will also come under this rule. We could have been more nuanced in the way that the motion was written to cover just those who come under this procedure. I also have to say that if we go back to the rulebook under the amendment, it means, unfortunately, that there is risk in the system. The name of a victim of abuse, whether that is bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct, could come to the fore. I do not cast aspersions on the commissioner or the Committee, but I go back to the rulebook as that is our governance.

I have one or two other issues to address before I close. First, I have raised in the steering group the way that sanctions are applied. It is really important that we see equality in applying sanctions and ensure that there is a framework in place for their application. Therefore, I really hope that, at the point of the six-month and 18-month reviews, there is moderation of the penalties to ensure that there is equality in applying sanctions. We will have different people applying those sanctions. It could be that, owing to unconscious bias, some people experience lighter sanctions than others. It is really important that we review what the sanctions were. We also need to know whether they were adhered to and what their impact was. Then we must question what else should be done. I also want to raise the issue of ensuring that we have good data to support the process of review. By the time that we get to six months and 18 months, it is really important that we have a thorough understanding of the impact of the policies.

Another issue relates to non-disclosure agreements. It is important that we understand not only what their role can be in helping and supporting individuals, but how they can be misused. It will be incumbent on the six-month review to take up that issue to see how they have been applied in this House and across the parliamentary community. It may be that we need tighter governance around their use. Often, such agreements—compromise agreements—can be used to buy people off. That is often the failing, and we need to make sure that that does not occur and that people receive true justice.

On historical cases, which I believe all hon. Members raised on the steering group, we need to ensure that everyone has that sense of justice. Personal support will apply to everyone and all will have access to the informal resolution processes in cases that predate June 2017 and of course the legal channels and the ability to refer a case to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards will still exist. It is the formal process that people will not have access to, and therefore I welcome the additional independent inquiry for MPs, peers and House staff, but I ask whoever has that responsibility within the inquiry to look into such cases and determine that, if an independent investigation is needed, it is reviewed so that everyone can have the justice they deserve.

I believe that training should be mandatory, as hon. Members have said, and that waiting till the next Parliament will leave it far, far too late. We need to roll it out in this Parliament. It should commence this year. If it is not mandatory, of course, the very people who would perhaps most benefit from it may miss out. I trust that there will be tight scrutiny to ensure that all Member access it at the earliest opportunity and that a focus is given to adjusting the training as the learning continues. After all, this is not just about a process, but about a new culture that we must adopt, so it is important that everyone is engaged.

I welcome the move to a good employment standard, which, in itself, will bring much and long overdue change to how people are treated in this place. We need to take the best employment practices from across our nation to ensure that we do the right thing. We work in a highly pressurised and stressful environment, and it can be incredibly stressful at times for our staff, so it is only right that we do the best for them. Not only should the performance of our staff be monitored; there should be 360 degree feedback for us as employers to make sure that we also are doing the right thing and that staff feel empowered in that process and able to challenge.

In conclusion, these policies, the code and the training start here, should the motion be passed today. Our new journey together around a new culture begins in this place. We must not look back but press forward to create the right working environment for everyone. I particularly thank all the stakeholders involved in the process, but I ask the Leader of the House to seriously consider the role that trade unions can play in enhancing employment in this place. We have seen the valuable contribution they have made to systems to date. After all, it is they who represent people day and night—it is day and night—through supporting individuals with their bullying claims. When I was a trade union official, the biggest issue we dealt with was workplace bullying. It is vital, therefore, that we recognise the support trade unions provide—it is not just about the stereotypes and headlines.

Today, we mark a new beginning. I thank hon. Members for their contributions and trust we will move forward together.

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With the leave of the House, I will make a couple of brief closing remarks. This has been an excellent debate and once again I pay tribute to colleagues from across the House for their efforts and contributions—it has been an extraordinary amount of work—and to the advisers, officials and the programme team who worked so hard. I also pay tribute once again to the victims who came forward with their testimonies and sparked this piece of work. On behalf of all the members of the steering group, I can say that we have been individually absolutely committed to achieving the change we are kicking off today. We can be incredibly proud of that.

We have, in particular, heard about the vital importance of the six-month review, and I draw all colleagues’ attention to page 34 of the report, which sets out some of the jobs that six-month review will have to do in addition to taking into careful account the work of Dame Laura Cox QC and the further historical allegation review that we are launching today.

I thank the right hon. Member for Rother Valley (Sir Kevin Barron) and his Committee for their work. It took me considerable time and effort, however, to persuade the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and the Standards Committee even of the need not to name people when opening investigations into all ICGP cases as well as non-ICGP cases. I have asked that we temporarily suspend naming people when opening investigations for the purpose of giving ourselves a clear run at this, even if we re-implement the PCS’s ability to name non-IGCP candidates after six months. I really urge Members not to accept the amendment. We need a clear run at this, so we need confidentiality and consistency.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Division 232

19 July 2018

The House divided:

Ayes: 22
Noes: 79

Question accordingly negatived.

View Details

Main Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House approves the Second Report from the Committee on Standards, Independent Complaints and Grievance Policy: Implementation, HC1396, and the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme Delivery Report and its proposals for ensuring clear standards for all who work in or visit Parliament, and, in particular:

(1) endorses the Behaviour Code and the policies and procedures relating to bullying and harassment and sexual harassment associated with the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme set out in the Delivery Report;

(2) agrees the following amendments to The Code of Conduct:

(i) in Section IV (General Principles of Conduct), after paragraph 8 insert the following new paragraph:

“Parliamentary Behaviour Code

Members are also expected to observe the principles set out in the Parliamentary Behaviour Code of respect, professionalism, understanding others’ perspectives, courtesy, and acceptance of responsibility.”;

(ii) in Section V (Rules of Conduct), add the following new rule as Rule [17]:

“Respect

A Member must treat their staff and all those visiting or working for or with Parliament with dignity, courtesy and respect.”;

(3) agrees the following changes to Standing Orders:

A. Standing Order No. 149 (Committee on Standards)

(i) in paragraph (5), at end insert “save as specified in paragraph (5A) of this Order”;

(ii) after paragraph (5) insert new paragraph (5A) of this Order:

“(5A) It shall be an instruction to the Committee that before dividing on any motion, the Committee should hold an indicative vote of lay and elected members to ascertain the views on the motion of the Committee as a whole and of each member present; that such a vote should be conducted as if it were a formal division; that, as in a formal division, the Chair should not take part in the initial vote but should have a casting vote in the event of a tie; that after holding such a vote the results should be recorded in the Committee’s formal minutes, without question put; and that after holding such a vote the Committee may or may not proceed to a formal division of elected Members.”;

B. Standing Order No. 150 (Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards)

(i) in paragraph (2), at end add the following new sub-paragraph:

“(f) to consider cases arising from the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme”;

(ii) in paragraph (4), at end add the following new sub-paragraph:

“(c) in any case arising from the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme where the Commissioner has proposed remedial action within any procedure approved by the Committee with which the Member concerned has complied or, if the remedy is prospective, undertaken to comply”;

(4) recognises the role of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to consider cases arising from the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme; notes the arrangements about publishing the details of investigations of such cases to ensure complaints are handled confidentially as set out in the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme Delivery Report; and accordingly agrees that, for consistency and fairness, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards should no longer routinely publish information about individual investigations before those investigations are concluded and accordingly agrees to amend sub-paragraph (b) of paragraph (12) of Standing Order No. 150 by inserting “statistical” before “information” and leaving out “and matters under investigation”;

(5) recognises that Dame Laura Cox QC is conducting an independent inquiry into the allegations of bullying and harassment of House of Commons staff, whose Terms of Reference were published on 23 April 2018; notes that the inquiry relies upon past and present staff members coming forward with information in person or in writing; notes further that the inquiry, while not investigating any individual complaints or reopening past cases, will consider what options are available for resolving current or historical allegations and providing support to those affected; accordingly agrees that a further independent inquiry in similar terms be established, by the Clerk of the House in consultation with the relevant authorities in the House of Lords as appropriate, to consider allegations of bullying and harassment in respect of those individuals including MPs and their staff, where those allegations are not in scope of the Dame Laura Cox QC inquiry; and directs that the inquiry should report directly to the House in time for its findings to be taken into account in the 6 month review of the scheme established under paragraph (6) of this motion;

(6) endorses the proposal in the report that there should be reviews of the new arrangements at 6 months and 18 months, and invites the Leader of the House to propose the establishment of a review body, including staff representation, to the House of Commons Commission for their consideration and agreement, in consultation with the relevant authorities in the House of Lords as appropriate; those reviews should incorporate

(a) the findings of the independent review set up under paragraph (5) of this motion and

(b) the findings of the Dame Laura Cox QC inquiry which deals with matters relating to staff of the House;

(7) directs the Accounting Officer to meet those costs of the inquiry under paragraph (5) and the reviews under paragraph (6) falling to the House of Commons from the House of Commons (Administration) Vote.

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On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The ministerial code states:

“It is of paramount importance that Ministers should give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister”.

This morning at business questions, the Leader of the House again attributed the controversy surrounding the pairing arrangements this week to administrative error. However, according to multiple news sources this afternoon, it appears that the Government Chief Whip did instruct Conservative MPs to break their pairs, with one hon. Member quoted as saying—[Hon. Members: “Rubbish.”] Members of the Whips Office can shout “Rubbish” as much as they like, but they will hear what one of their own Members—[Interruption.]

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Order. The point of order must be heard.

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Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. They do not like to hear it, but here is what one Conservative Member is quoted as saying:

“Julian told me I was needed and told me to come in and vote. Of course he knew I was paired. I didn’t vote and honoured my pair, and he demanded to know why not afterwards. It then appears Julian told the prime minister it was all an innocent mistake”.

I have no reason not to believe that the Leader of the House is only relaying what she has been told to say. Given this, how can we compel the Chief Whip to come to the Dispatch Box to account for his actions, because if the trust of the pairing system has been abused in this way, he must surely now resign?

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Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Like the hon. Member for Ilford North (Wes Streeting), we would also like to inquire whether there are ways of addressing this issue. If an urgent question is submitted on the matter, then, with the Speaker’s permission, if the question is accepted, can the Chief Whip come to the Chamber to respond rather than hiding behind the Leader of the House?

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Both hon. Members have made their views very clear, but neither of them made a point of order on which I can rule. I am sure that what the Leader of the House said at business questions was said in good faith and based on information that she had received. If she was intentionally inaccurate in anything she said, I am quite sure that she would take steps to correct the record. I do not think that we should rush to any conclusions based on what has been reported in social media.

With regard to the Chief Whip, it is certainly a convention that the Chief Whip does not speak in the House. However, first, it is a matter for the Speaker whether to allow an urgent question, as hon. Members know. It is then for the Government to decide who should respond and in what way. I think we will leave it at that.