Conservatives publish new code of conduct for MPs
The Conservatives have published a new code of conduct for their MPs and other elected representatives in the wake of sexual harassment allegations.
The party is immediately adopting a new complaints procedure with a hotline for reporting potential breaches and a more detailed investigatory process.
For the first time, there will be an independent figure on the body looking into grievances, the party said.
It pledged to deal with all complaints in a “timely and confidential manner”.
A series of allegations about the conduct of politicians in recent weeks has led to the resignation of one cabinet minister, former defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon, and an investigation into two other ministers.
The Labour Party has also launched investigations into allegations about the behaviour of two of its MPs and has introduced a new complaints procedure, although some Labour figures have called for a fully independent body to investigate sensitive complaints.
Prime Minister Theresa May is due to meet opposition party leaders including Jeremy Corbyn on Monday to discuss proposals to bring forward a new grievance system for Westminster staff and MPs.
Mrs May has said a binding code of conduct for the Conservative Party – which replaces a voluntary one in force since 2014 – is one of a number of measures required to reassure victims of mistreatment that they can come forward and receive a fair hearing and to make explicit the “minimum standards” expected of party representatives.
The code of conduct obliges Conservative MPs, other elected representatives, peers and national party officials to “act with probity and honesty” and uphold the party’s “values and reputation”.
The code – which will apply immediately even though it has yet to be approved by the Conservative Party board – makes clear all Conservative representatives must “treat others with civility, courtesy and respect” and not “use their position to bully, abuse, harass or unlawfully discriminate against others”.
It says they will be expected to take “all reasonable steps” to ensure people who wish to raise concerns about the conduct of others “feel able to do” and to make them aware of the procedures involved.
The new grievance procedure, drawn up following advice from external lawyers and HR experts, will include at least one independent, non-party member on a panel handling complaints.
Under the proposed system, it will be down to the party leader or the Conservative Party board to decide what action to take against those found to have a case to answer, although the code makes clear sanctions could include suspension and expulsion from the party.
In a letter to Commons Speaker John Bercow, Prime Minister Theresa May said the code “set out for the first time in one place” her party’s procedure to be used for dealing with complaints.
While the Conservatives were taking action, she said Parliament must do its bit as well as it was not fair to expect potentially vulnerable people to “navigate different grievance procedures according to political party”.