Written evidence submitted by Committee the Cultural Transformation Director at the House of Commons


  1. Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Committee on Standards inquiry into the Code of Conduct.


  1. The Cultural Transformation Team was established following the report of Dame Laura Cox into the bullying and harassment of House of Commons Service staff, to address the underlying cultural issues that allowed a culture of bullying and harassment to prevail. Although initially focused on the culture of the House Service, we intend to broaden the scope of our work in 2021 to support the wider Parliamentary community to follow the Behaviour Code.


  1. This submission is therefore concerned with how the Code of Conduct supports positive working relationships in Parliament and how it might be a tool for continued progress in this area.

What values, attitudes and behaviours should the Code of Conduct for MPs seek to encourage or discourage? How far is the Code of Conduct consistent with other codes that have effect within Parliament, that is, the Parliamentary Behaviour Code and the House of Lords Code of Conduct?

  1. The Behaviour Code was adopted by resolution of the House on 19 July 2018 as a statement of the standards of behaviour expected of everybody in the Parliamentary community, in response to allegations of a culture of bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct in Parliament.


  1. The Code of Conduct refers to the Behaviour Code in the following ways. As a principle of conduct, Members are expected to observe the principles set out in the Parliamentary Behaviour Code of respect, professionalism, understanding others’ perspectives, courtesy, and acceptance of responsibility (para 9). In the Rules section, “a Member must treat their staff and all those visiting or working for or with Parliament with dignity, courtesy and respect (para 18).


  1. It is helpful that these expectations are set out so clearly and prominently in the Code of Conduct.


  1. The Code of Conduct for Members of the House of Lords states that behaviour that amounts to bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct is a breach of the Code, and relevant definitions are provided in the Guide to the Rules. The extent to which breaches of the Behaviour Code can be investigated is not well understand; making this information similarly prominent in the Code of Conduct for MPs would therefore be helpful.  


How can the requirements of the Code be communicated better to MPs?

  1. As inquiry witnesses have observed, the Guide to the Rules is primarily focused on requirements relating to financial interests and lobbying. Although, certain tenets of the Behaviour Code do not easily lend themselves to formal rules and requirements (for example, understanding others’ perspectives), it would be helpful to provide MPs with positive examples of what the Code means in practice and how to abide by it. Rules and sanctions clearly play an important role in ensuring a culture of dignity and respect. However, it is equally important to support and encourage positive behaviours.


  1. Others will be better equipped to advise on whether this is best achieved via the Code and Guide to the Rules itself or by separate guidance. However, we would be happy to assist the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, if desired, with producing examples and guidance on how to access further support.
  2. Aside from its incorporation into the Code of Conduct and the prominent display of posters throughout the Parliamentary Estate, the main vehicle for raising awareness of the Behaviour Code thus far has been the Valuing Everyone training. As of 31 December 2020, this had been completed by 572 MPs. The training is designed to ensure that everyone working in the House is able to recognise bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct, and feels confident taking action to tackle and prevent it. An evaluation report in September 2020 found that over 90% of MPs who attended the training and completed a feedback form found the course to be effective at increasing their ability to recognise unacceptable behaviour and signposting to further support. The impact and effectiveness of the training is included in the terms of reference for the 18-month review of the ICGS and we will consider whether, when and how training might be offered in future, following the publication of that report.


  1. Other means by which the House Service is supporting MPs to adopt positive behaviours in line with the Behaviour Code are:



  1. We stand ready to assist with any work to support the embedding of the Code arising from the Committee’s inquiry or the subsequent review by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.


Sarah Petit
Cultural Transformation Director

1 February 2021