Lessons from 2020: We’ve seen progress in improving parliamentary culture and rooting out bullying and harassment
People walk in front of the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, Dec 13 2020| PA Images
While there have been improvements in parliamentary culture, there is still a way to go yet
Everyone who works in or visits Parliament should be treated with dignity and respect. This was the cornerstone of the cross-party working group that established the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme.
The involvement of Dame Laura Cox was to ensure the independence of investigations into MPs. I wholeheartedly support her recommendations and am pleased that they are being implemented in full.
However, I do still have one significant concern – that the powers of the independent panel presiding over MPs enable the immediate expulsion of an MP, and hence the immediate loss for that constituency of their Parliamentary representative.
In my opinion, when the independent panel recommends expulsion to the standards committee, the committee should either be able to ratify the expulsion, or by exception (such as in the event that a by-election is unlikely to be available for a period of time) propose instead that there is a recall of the MP for their constituents to make the decision in a democratic vote.
For many of our citizens, the help of an MP to support them when they have nowhere else to turn is critical. An expulsion of an MP with no replacement or guaranteed timing of a by-election could see an area, through no fault of its own, be without a democratic voice for a considerable amount of time.
When the final Cox proposals on the independent panel were made to the House, I put down an amendment with my alternative proposal, drafted by a senior clerk. However, this was inexplicably ruled out of order by the Speaker on advice.
I raised this matter with the Leader of the House during the debate. He pointed out that since the panel is independent, he cannot require them to consider my plea, but agreed he will draw it to their attention. We have already seen progress in improving Parliamentary culture – let’s ensure that 2021 is the year we fix it!
Andrea Leadsom is Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire and former Leader of the House of Commons