Skip to main content

Confidentiality in the House's standards system

19 June 2020

The Committee on Standards publishes its report on Confidentiality in the House's standards system.

The report considers the confidentiality restrictions which were introduced in July 2018 when the House adopted the Behaviour Code and Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS). These restrictions apply to non-ICGS as well as ICGS cases. A paper by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is published with the report, as an appendix.

Both the Committee and the Commissioner appreciate the importance of confidentiality within the ICGS in order to protect the vulnerable and encourage victims to come forward.  The Commissioner's paper argues that in certain specific respects, the current rules on confidentiality have impeded her work and undermined the effective operation of the standards system. She puts forward four recommendations for improving matters.

The Committee shares the Commissioner's concerns and supports her recommendations, which relate to the following subjects:

  • Deterrents to unauthorised disclosure
  • The power to set the record straight
  • Authority to publish a quarterly report about completed ICGS investigations 
  • Publishing information about ongoing non-ICGS investigations

The Committee sets out a draft motion to be put before the House agreeing to these recommendations and accordingly agreeing to amend paragraph 12 of Standing Order No 150 to reflect these changes.

The lay members of the Committee, who have full voting rights on the Committee, played a full and active part in drawing up the Committee's report, with which they are in agreement.

Chair's comments

Chris Bryant MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

"Getting the balance right between confidentiality and openness in any standards system is a tricky and sensitive issue. On the basis of two years practical experience since the House's new confidentiality regime was introduced, the Commissioner argues that the House should make some adjustments to the system. The Committee shares the Commissioner's concerns and supports her proposals. If the House agrees on 23 June to set up an Independent Expert Panel to replace the Standards Committee in determining ICGS cases involving MPs, as I hope it will, the Committee will cease to have a role in relation to such cases. Notwithstanding that, the Commissioner will retain her role, and therefore the Committee thought it was important that her proposals on confidentiality should be put before the House. The purpose of our report is to do that with a minimum amount of comment from ourselves."

Further information

Image: Parliamentary copyright