Mon, 27 May 2024

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By Baroness Smith of Llanfaes
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Chris Bryant Says MPs Have Tried To Lobby Him Over Misconduct Cases

Labour MP Chris Bryant is chair of the Committee on Standards (Alamy)

3 min read

Chris Bryant, chair of the standards committee, says he has been forced to report MPs for trying to lobby him over complaints being handled by his committee.

The Labour MP, who has overseen the committee since May 2020, told The House magazine that during his tenure he had been approached by MPs on several occasions who wanted to discuss misconduct cases he was presiding over.

“Now every single time anyone approaches me, I just report it straight to the Commissioner, because that in itself is a breach of the code,” he said.

“You wouldn’t go to the judge to try to bend the judge’s ear.”

The code of conduct for MPs, which is set by the standards committee, states that “no Member shall lobby a member of the Committee in a manner calculated or intended to influence its consideration of an alleged breach of this Code”.

The Commons Committee on Standards is responsible for considering cases of misconduct which have been referred to it by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Stone, and recommending appropriate sanctions.

Recent cases ruled on by the committee include breaches of lobbying rules by Conservative MPs Andrew Bridgen and Owen Paterson, as well as complaints of bullying against Daniel Kawczynski.

MPs who sit on the committee also make up the Privileges Committee, which is appointed by the Commons to consider particular cases, such as contempt of parliament.

Bryant recently recused himself from the role, however, after the committee was asked to consider claims that former prime minister Boris Johnson misled the Commons over his claims surrounding the “partygate” scandal.

He chose to step aside to prevent any “imputation of unfairness” during the course of the inquiry due to his past public criticism of Johnson’s conduct. Fellow Labour MP Harriet Harman was appointed to chair the inquiry in his place.

Bryant also told The House that he stood by claims he made in the Commons last month that Conservative MPs were being forced to vote with the government during a Labour motion on fracking.

He claimed at the time that he had witnessed MPs being “physically manhandled" and "bullied" into voting with the government on the vote, which took place on the penultimate day of Liz Truss’s premiership.

Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle asked senior parliamentary officials to look into claims, and concluded that there was “no evidence” that MPs were subject to “undue influence” during the vote.

Asked if he stood by his claims, Bryant said: “I do.”

He continued: “What I would consider to be intimidatory behaviour and bullying, maybe I have a lower threshold for that than some others would.”

Bryant went on to suggest that having cameras in the voting lobbies could have provided evidence for his claims, and added that some of the “worst behaviour” he’d seen by MPs in parliament had taken place during votes.

“In my 21 years as an MP, the worst behaviour by MPs that I have seen has either been in the bar, all of which is quite well documented, or is in the division lobbies. If there had been cameras in the division lobby, nobody would have had to look for evidence, the evidence would have been there,” he said.

“It is striking the number of clerks who said to me that they are delighted they no longer have to sit in the division lobbies for counting, because we now do it with our passes, because the hectoring attitude, the bullying and sometimes even the touching up of clerks by MPs in the division lobbies, was just beyond.”

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