Written evidence submitted by the Clerk of the House (MAC0044)

1.                  This memorandum is an update to the written submission from the Clerk of the House to the Home Affairs Committee on 18 June 2019 concerning its inquiry – The Macpherson Report: Twenty years on.[1]


2.                  The Clerk of the House submitted his first memorandum to the Committee following the evidence session with Imran Khan QC.[2] That evidence raised concerns around the findings of the Stand in my Shoes report by ParliREACH that highlighted issues of race, ethnicity and cultural heritage in Parliament.  This memorandum serves to update the Committee of further progress made to address the concerns raised in the report and later in evidence.


Actions by the House of Commons updated June 2020


3.                  The House of Commons Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Strategy and Corporate Action Plan 2019 – 2022[3] sets out our ethnicity and cultural challenge and is committed to explicitly ensuring that ethnic, racial and cultural diversity remains a top priority. A Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Inclusion Programme is incorporated into the D&I Corporate Action Plan and progress continues to be made against these actions.


Access Restrictions


4.                  New access rules, removing grade restrictions have been in place since January 2020[4]. Security staff and doorkeepers have received specific training in the new rules.  The new rules have provided more access for all staff including BAME staff.  The new rules were to be initially part of a 6-month trial period however the trial has been extended due to COVID 19 and feedback is being collected. 


5.                  The rules and practices governing access to services and facilities around the Commons Estate had been identified as contributing to a them and us culture’ by Dame Laura Cox in her report[5]. As the removal of these access restrictions is still being trialled there is not enough evidence at this time to determine the impact of their removal on the culture of the organisation.




Racial Bias


6.                  The Stand in my Shoes report included several first-hand accounts of BAME colleagues who said that they are more frequently and more forcefully asked to have their passes checked.


7.                  ITN recently ran their own survey on the experiences of BAME Members of Parliament. They have reported that 62% of BAME Members[6] stated they had experienced racism or racist profiling on the Parliamentary Estate.


8.                   Unconscious bias training continues to be rolled out specifically targeting Parliamentary Security Department staff whose role it is to check passes. Progress is being made towards the 90% target by end of 2020 with all new security staff receiving the training as part of their induction course.


9.                  A review of the process for checking security passess is underway. Parliamentary Security Department and ParliREACH held a workshop to discuss the issues as a start to this process and a working group with all key stakeholders held its first meeting on 9 July 2020.  The review will be carried out in two phases, covering security first and access second, to ensure that discrete issues are separately identified and managed.  By the end of August 2020 a report will be published with recommendations for Phase one.


10.              A cultural audit ( Everyone has a Voice survey) and a Health, Safety, Stress and Wellbeing audit (Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Stress and Wellbeing Survey) have been implemented since last yearThe HSE survey measured stress and wellbeing, and found that on 5 out of 7 measures, BAME colleagues shared the same attitudes as White colleagues. The Everyone has a Voice survey measured employees experience of organisational culture, and found disparities between BAME and White colleagues’ perceptions on a number of measures.


Both surveys found that BAME colleagues reported higher levels of experiencing bullying and harassment:


The HSE survey identified that:



The Everyone Has a Voice survey found that:



11.              The House of Commons Executive Board agreed that a BAME Advisory Group should be set up and chaired by the Clerk of the House of Commons. The Group has been established to help ensure that there is a sustained effort to improve the lived experience of BAME colleagues by systematically removing barriers and focusing on outcomes that can be seen, heard, felt and communicated. This is to close the gap between the organisation's ambitions to be a diverse and inclusive workplace and the lived reality of Black and BAME colleagues. The BAME Advisory Group is a subgroup of the House of Commons Diversity and Inclusion Steering Group. The first meeting of the Group was held in June, with the expectation of establishing new workstreams to assist in the delivery of transformational change.



BAME Representation


12.              The House published its ethnicity pay gap in April this year.  The median ethnicity pay gap for the House of Commons is currently 8.7% and for the Parliamentary Digital Service (which is bicameral) it is 10.2 %. The figures for the gap reflect the House staff profile of BAME under-representation at senior level pay bands SCS and A.


13.              There is currently 10% BAME representation in SCS and A pay bands (as a proportion of those who shared this information. Of all those surveyed 83% of staff in pay bands SCS and A provided their ethnicity data). The benchmark to be achieved over the next two years is 13%, in line with the economically active national population.


14.              The work of the Diversifying Senior Leader (DSL) programme from 2016-2018 is being progressed. The Press Pause policy aimed at ensuring diverse shortlists has been extended to pay band B and the work of the DSL programme has been incorporated into the new HR strategy 2020 -2025. The strategy is focused on inclusive recruitment and will seek to support the implementation of the D&I strategy targets. Areas of focus are:



15.              A BAME sponsorship scheme has been launched as of November 2019 and the inclusive leadership development programme with ring-fenced spaces for BAME participants is due to be launched in the autumn of this year. Both programmes are aimed at progressing the careers of BAME staff at pay band A to senior levels of the organisation.


16.              The House of Commons BAME Internship Programme is continuing which is open to BAME graduates for roles in the Chamber and Committees and the Research & Information teams.  The aim is to develop and retain these individuals to help diversify our internal staffing pipeline, particularly in teams with low BAME representation. This year we expect more interns to have secured roles with the House Service.


17.              The Pathway to Success Leadership Development programme, in partnership with Operation Black Vote, Oxford University’s Magdalen College and Blavanik School of Government, and Lloyds Banking Group, is a ground-breaking new initiative working to equip BAME individuals with the tools and knowledge required to stand for political office. Thirty participants attended the first programme held in September 2019. Although unsuccessful, three participants stood as Parliamentrary candidates at the 2019 General Election held in December. Recruitment has already begun for the second cohort of the programme.



General Culture Change


18.              The Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS)[7] was implemented in 2018 and includes a Behaviour Code, a Bullying and Harassment Policy, and a Sexual Misconduct Policy which are in place for all staff. The Bullying and Harassment Policy refers to harassment relating to race or ethnicity and the Sexual Harassment Policy refers to intersectionality.


19.              There is mandatory training in place (Valuing Everyone) for all Parliamentary Staff, Members and Members staff in relation to the ICGS Scheme. To date over 400 sessions have been delivered to colleagues across the parliamentary community, including 50 for MPs and Peers. Over 3000 House staff have now been fully trained


20.              The Cultural Transformation team established in 2019 and tasked with translating the recommendations from Dame Laura Cox report into tangible, measurable and lasting change have progressed actions in the D&I strategy 2019-22:


a)      Implement the actions arising from the Dame Laura Cox report (4.2)

b)      Further develop the ICGS and promote positive behaviours we expect of all in an inclusive culture, challenging unacceptable behaviour (4.18)


The three key recommendations of the Dame Laura Cox Report have now been implemented.


21.              Unconscious bias training is available to all staff and included as an element of the training for members of recruitment selection boards.


22.              Inclusive language guidance and sessions for staff development, with a focus on race and ethnicity, are still to be developed.


23.              The House of Commons has signed up to the Race at Work Charter; by doing so we have committed to five calls to action. This is to ensure that the House of Commons Service is tackling barriers that ethnic minority people face in recruitment and progression and that the House is representative of British society today. Submission to this benchmark to see what progress has been made and where we still need to improve will be completed in July 2020.


July 2020










[1] http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/home-affairs-committee/the-macpherson-report-twenty-years-on/written/105774.pdf

[2] http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/home-affairs-committee/the-macpherson-report-twenty-years-on/oral/103155.pdf

[3] Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2019 -2022 https://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/offices/commons/house-of-commons-commission/hoc-diversity-inclusion-strategy/

[4] Access Arrangerments:https://intranet.parliament.uk/Documents/Access-in-the-Commons-booklet.pdf

[5] Dame Laura Cox Report Independent Enquiry Report: https://intranet.parliament.uk/Documents/dame-laura-cox-independent-inquiry-report.pdf


[6] https://www.itv.com/news/2020-02-17/more-than-half-of-black-asian-and-minority-ethnic-bame-mps-asked-by-itv-news-have-experienced-racism-in-parliament

[7] ICGS: https://intranet.parliament.uk/people-offices/icgp1/