Working Group on Independent Complaints and Grievance Policy - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:36 pm on 8th February 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal 2:36 pm, 8th February 2018

I am very grateful to the noble Baroness and the noble Lord for their comments. Although he is not in his place, I want to put on record my thanks to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, who has played an important role in the working group and been extremely helpful. He has dedicated a lot of his time to it. I also echo the noble Baroness’s thanks to the staff and the secretariat, who have worked incredibly hard on this important report.

The noble Baroness asked about advice for MPs and Peers. That is a key thing that the working group wants to make sure is available, as will be much more extensive training on a whole range of issues. On her question on sanctions, the working group did not propose any new sanctions for this House or the other place—this House already has the power to suspend or expel a Member who is guilty of misconduct—but the noble Baroness is absolutely right: there will be a range of sanctions at different points. As I mentioned, perhaps an apology will be enough; if not, sanctions will be graduated. As the investigations go through and the seriousness of the offence becomes clear, the sanctions available in relation to it will change.

Both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness asked about the role of the Lords Commissioner for Standards. She gave evidence to the committee and has been involved in conversations, as has been the Commons commissioner, and of course she will be involved in any developments going forward. Investigations, sanctions and the Code of Conduct will need be reviewed by our Commissioner for Standards and the Lords’ Conduct Sub-Committee. The sub-committee will then need to make recommendations to the Committee for Privileges and Conduct. At the end of the process, the House will take decisions on what changes are necessary. Our commission will be involved in discussion and in helping set things in motion, but if changes are to be made to Code of Conduct, we will of course go through the proper channels so that the House has the opportunity to accept and approve what may happen.

The noble Baroness might like to look at paragraph 84 in relation to trade unions, although I fear it will not go quite as far as she might like. But there is reference in there. I certainly agree with both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness that work needs to move speedily. The noble Lord is right about the need for a culture change, which is why there is specific chapter in the report on that.

I thank noble Lords for their support and once again thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, for his help on the committee.