Apologies to the House

There are numerous reasons why an MP might apologise to the House. Where an individual has been the subject of an investigation and report by the Committee on Standards (or its predecessors), the Committee may recommend that an apology be made on the floor of the House. (Instances where the Committee recommends that the Member apologises to the House in writing, through the Committee, are not included in this list.)

Other examples include apologies made for disorderly conduct or for the provision of inaccurate information during proceedings.

Certain cases relating to the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme may be considered by The Independent Expert Panel, see below. One of the sanctions the Panel can recommend is for the Member to make an apology on the floor of the House.

Committee on Standards

The Committee on Standards is appointed by the House of Commons to oversee the work of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. The membership and remit of the Committee are governed by Standing Order No 149.

The Committee cannot take on complaints about MPs, these should be directed to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. The Standards Committee’s webpage has Information about the complaint process on the conduct of an MP [pdf].

The Committee may consider matters relating to the conduct of Members, including specific complaints in relation to alleged breaches in the Code of Conduct which have been drawn to the Committee’s attention by the Commissioner. In serious cases, it requires apologies or recommends sanctions for approval by the House.

Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is an independent officer of the House of Commons established under Standing Order No 150. The Commissioner investigates allegations that MPs have breached the rules found in paragraphs 11-18 of the House of Commons’ Code of Conduct for Members.

The Commissioner also has oversight of investigations conducted under the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme.

The role of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is to:

  • provide advice;
  • investigate allegations that MPs have broken their Code of Conduct and its supporting rules;
  • decide complaints from the parliamentary community about harassment, bullying or sexual harassment by MPs;
  • keep the MPs’ Code of Conduct under review; and
  • keep the Register of Members’ Financial Interests and the three other Registers which the House requires.

If the Commissioner upholds a complaint, she can resolve it herself if the MP admits their error and apologises, via the rectification procedure. In serious cases she submits a formal report to the Select Committee on Standards, for them to consider a sanction.

The Commissioner’s full report is always published, along with the evidence, unless it relates to an investigation under the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme. These are treated confidentially.

Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme

The Commissioner also has oversight of investigations conducted under the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme.

Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme consists of the Behaviour Code, the Bullying and Harassment Policy, and the Sexual Misconduct Policy, which have been in place since July 2018.

The Independent Expert Panel was established by the House of Commons on 23 June 2020. The Panel hears appeals against decisions made by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards (the Commissioner), considers referrals from the Commissioner and determines sanctions in cases involving an allegation against an MP of a breach of Parliament’s Sexual Misconduct Policy or the Bullying and Harassment Policy, under the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme.

The Panel is entirely independent, with no MPs taking part in its decisions. The Panel members were appointed on 25 November 2020. Read more about the appointment of the Panel here.

Sanctions

Revised sanctions against Members for use in both ICGS cases (by the Commissioner, the Independent Expert Panel or the House, as appropriate) and in non-ICGS cases (by the Commissioner, the Committee or the House) were agreed by the House on 21 April 2021. Details of the sanctions, which include an apology to the House, are in the Annex of the Committee on Standards report, Sanctions and confidentiality in the House’s standards system: revised proposals, 30 March 2021

Further reading

The Code of Conduct together with The Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members HC 1882, 10 October 2019

Commons Library Briefing Paper Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme CBP-836927, April 2021

Commons Library Briefing Paper Sanctions and confidentiality in the House’s standards system CBP-9199, 20 April 2021

Commons Briefing Paper Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme: independent investigation CBP-8944, 26 Jan 2021

Parliament: facts and figures

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