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Committee on Standards: Cox Report

Part of NHS Long-Term Plan – in the House of Commons at 9:24 pm on 7th January 2019.

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Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 9:24 pm, 7th January 2019

I beg to move,

That this House
approves the Fifth Report of the Committee on Standards, Implications of the Dame Laura Cox report for the House’s standards system: Initial proposals, HC 1726, and agrees the following changes to Standing Orders and to the Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members as approved by the House on 17 March 2015:

Standing Order No. 149 (Committee on Standards)

(i) in paragraph (5), line 3, leave out from “witnesses,”
to end and add “may move motions and amendments to motions or draft reports, and may vote.”.

(ii) leave out paragraph (5A).

Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members

Chapter 4: Procedure for inquiries

(i) Leave out paragraph 6(b) and insert –

“b) be in writing or by email, and provide the complainant’s name and full postal address;
and”.

(ii) Leave out paragraph 11.

The motion stands in my name and that of Kate Green. I welcome the opportunity to take part in this important debate on behalf of the Government. The motion, if agreed by the House, serves to strengthen the independence of the Committee on Standards and modernise its practices. I will touch more on the content of the motion, and I am sure that the hon. Lady, the Chair of the Committee, will also provide the House with a detailed account of the proposed changes.

It is important that we put these changes in their wider context. Now, more than ever, we must not lose sight of our drive to improve the culture of our Parliament. How has this motion come about? In November 2017, shocking stories of harassment and bullying in Westminster came to light. I have been clear, as has the Prime Minister, that there is absolutely no place for this unacceptable behaviour in Parliament, or anywhere else for that matter. We should be setting an example for others to follow, and my ambition is that our Parliament become a role model for other Parliaments around the world.

In response to the allegations, the Prime Minister convened party leaders and set up a cross-party working group to develop an independent complaints and grievance procedure for Parliament. A programme team, overseen by a cross-party steering group made up of Members of both Houses and staff representatives, then worked on the implementation of the new policy, known as the ICGS, which was agreed by the House and launched in July last year. Throughout our work, there was a clear recognition from the cross-party group that establishing the ICGS was the beginning, not the end, of a bigger movement to challenge and change the culture in Parliament. As part of this, we agreed that there must be a review of the scheme at six and 18 months, as it beds in. This gives us the chance to improve as we go and to constantly ask ourselves what more we can do.

I am currently working with colleagues in the House to establish the first of these reviews and that work will begin later this month. The purpose of each review will be, first, to scrutinise how the new complaints procedure is working in practice; secondly, to address outstanding areas, such as how to incorporate into the scheme visitors to constituency offices and how to manage third-party reporting; and thirdly, to incorporate the findings of the Cox report, following the recommendations of the House of Commons Commission and the other independent inquiries set up as part of the ICGS.