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On 23 June 2020, the House agreed to the establishment of an Independent Expert Panel to consider cases against MPs raised under the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme. It agreed to the functions and responsibilities of the Panel, the method of appointing the Panel and made consequent changes to Standing Orders. The House also agreed an amendment to ensure that any decisions relating to recommendations made by the Panel that needed to be ratified by the House should be decided without debate in the Chamber.

Its functions are:

a) to determine the appropriate sanction in ICGS cases referred to it by the Parliamentary Commissioner on Standards;

(b) to hear appeals against the decisions of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards in respect of ICGS cases involving Members of this House;

(c) to hear appeals against a sanction imposed under paragraph (a);

(d) to report from time to time, through the Clerk of the House, on the operation of the ICGS as it relates to Members of this House

On 25 November 2020, the House approved the appointment of the first eight members of the Panel, as recommended by the House of Common Commission. In line with the Commission’s recommendations four members were appointed for six years and four members for four years:

Six-year terms:

Four-year terms:

Monica Daley
Miss Dale Simon
Sir Peter Thornton
Dr Matthew Vickers

Mrs Lisa Ball
Mrs Johanna Higgins
Sir Stephen Irwin (Chair)
Professor Clare McGlynn

The Commission’s report Members of the Independent Expert Panel: Nomination of Candidates was published on 19 November 2020. It outlined the process followed in recruiting and selecting those nominated. It recommended that four candidates should be appointed for the maximum term of six years and that four candidates, including the proposed Chair of the Panel, should be appointed for four years. It provided brief details of the nominated candidates.

In The Bullying and Harassment of House of Commons Staff – Independent Inquiry Report, Dame Laura Cox recommended that the “process for determining complaints of bullying, harassment or sexual harassment brought by House staff against Members of Parliament will be an entirely independent process, in which Members of Parliament will play no part”.

Recall of MPs and the IEP

The process for a petition under the Recall of MPs Act 2015 is not triggered by a suspension imposed on the recommendation of the IEP. For a recall to be initiated, the sanction must be imposed on the recommendation of the Committee on Standards, or another Committee of the House of Commons concerned with standards of conduct. The IEP is not a Committee of the House of Commons.

At Business Questions on 27 May 2021, the Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, explained why the decision had been taken that a suspension recommended by the IEP would not trigger a recall petition. Confidential information about the ICGS case could be revealed during the petition process or subsequent by-election and it had been important to ensure the independence of ICGS processes.

However, following a recommendation from the IEP that an MP be suspended for six weeks, calls grew for suspensions under the ICGS to trigger recall elections in the same way as non-ICGS cases would, following recommendations from the Committee on Standards.

The House of Commons Commission considered the matter at its meeting on 12 July 2021. It agreed that the House should be asked to apply the Recall of MPs Act 2015 to suspensions following determinations by the Independent Expert Panel.

Following the publication of the Commission’s minutes, on 19 July 2021, the Leader of the House tabled a motion to require the Committee on Standards to recommend a concurrent suspension of the same length when the provisions of the Recall of MPs Act 2015 would have been engaged. Unlike a similar motion tabled previously by the Labour Party (see Order Paper, 7 July 2021), the Leader of the House’s motion does not have retrospective effect. The Labour Party has tabled an amendment to give retrospective effect.

On 20 July 2021, Esther Webber, senior UK correspondent, POLITICOEurope, tweeted a letter from Sir Stephen Irwin, Chair of the IEP, expressing specific concerns about the proposals to apply recall provisions to IEP recommendations being retrospective.

A fuller background to the ICGS can be found in the Library Briefing Paper, Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme, CBP 8369.

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