Election planning and services Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

The long view

1.The General Election Planning Group (GEPG) should ensure that messages around cyber and physical security are clearly communicated to new as well as returning Members at the next election so that the Parliamentary Digital Service and Security Department can build on this to embed good practices throughout the next Parliament. (Paragraph 7)

2.Ensuring that office capacity is available to accommodate all new and returning Members and their staff, with as few moves and as little disruption as possible, will be important for the effectiveness of Parliament as an institution during the next several election periods. To achieve this for 2020, plans for moving existing Members out of Northern Estate buildings need to be made soon and bearing in mind the need to allow time for more routine election moves to be planned and implemented. (Paragraph 9)

Pre-Election planning

3.We recommend that in planning for the next general election the General Election Planning Group (GEPG) adopts the same focus on customer service as in 2015, with members of this Committee, party Whips and individual Members engaged at the earliest opportunity. The GEPG and party representatives should continue to liaise closely on the timing of party and parliamentary business as well as the various other demands on Members’ time immediately after the next election. (Paragraph 13)

4.The General Election Planning Group (GEPG) should lead on the production of communications on dissolution arrangements aimed at Members’ constituency caseworkers before the next election period. The GEPG should work with the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority and staff representative groups to ensure clear and consistent guidance is provided on permissible activities during the dissolution period, and on steps to take in the event of a Member not being returned. (Paragraph 16)

5.The House Service should explore ways of allowing the parliamentary email accounts of Members standing at the next Election and their staff to remain open, liaising with the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to ensure that measures are in place to avoid any advantage arising to incumbents. The House Service should also consider whether there is a need to extend the period during which Members standing down at an election, and their staff, can still access their Parliamentary email accounts to allow more time for records to be transferred or destroyed securely. (Paragraph 18)

Initial contact and induction programme

6.The support for new and as well as returning Members has come on leaps and bounds over the last few parliaments and we would like to commend the House Service staff among others who have worked hard to bring this about. (Paragraph 20)

7.The General Election Planning Group should consider further reducing the information provided to new Members on election night to just the key information needed in the days between election and arrival at Westminster. An eye-catching cover note highlighting the most essential and time-critical information (for example, on contacting the House, travel and accommodation, and what to bring for the first week) would help communicate key points more reliably. (Paragraph 21)

8.The introduction of improved written guidance tailored for specific readers (new Members, all Members’ staff, and returning Members) was a very positive development. However, these useful guides are easily lost in piles of correspondence and briefing. To extend their use they should be reissued at intervals: a few weeks, then several months after the next election. These guides should also be easily found (and in a searchable format) on the Parliamentary website. (Paragraph 23)

Members’ buddying programme

9.Contact Centre staff should be equipped to provide basic information to new Members who may not be familiar with London, such as tips on public transport options (contactless or Oyster cards etc.). The General Election Planning Group should also consider whether including information from Transport for London (perhaps including an Oyster card or equivalent) in the information packs handed to Members on Election Day would be beneficial. (Paragraph 26)

10.Arranging buddies into groups to share knowledge about the array of processes, rules, and facilities in the House seems to have been a useful approach and should be repeated next time. Including an ICT specialist in each group would be especially beneficial. Providing buddies with new Members’ biographical information will have to enabled them to familiarise themselves quickly with the Member they were assisting and tailor the service they provided. This approach should be repeated. (Paragraph 28)

11.The response of Members to the service provided by individual members of House Staff acting as buddies in 2015 was overwhelmingly positive and we would like to thank each of them for volunteering their time to help new colleagues find their feet. (Paragraph 31)

12.The buddying programme should be repeated at the next election with enough volunteers recruited to ensure individual buddies are required to provide support to no more than two new Members. (Paragraph 32)

13.The buddying scheme should be extended to include formal assistance to new staff of Members, including those based in constituency offices. (Paragraph 33)

14.We encourage all the parties to continue to facilitate their former or existing Members pairing with new Members of the same party to provide a source of support and advice at the next election. While House Service buddies should not be seen as a replacement for the parties facilitating their own ‘political buddies’ the experience of the SNP in 2015 showed the value of this new service, particularly for parties experiencing a high turnover or large influx of Members. (Paragraph 34)

New Member’s Reception Area (NMRA)

15.The General Election Planning Group should consider whether contact information for government departments in relation to casework enquiries would be best provided to new Members at the New Members’ Reception Area. (Paragraph 36)

16.The General Election Planning Group would need to consider how much space can be made available at the New Members’ Reception Area (NMRA)—and the need to focus services on Members—but we think that the option for new Members to bring someone with them through the NMRA to help absorb information is worth exploring. (Paragraph 38)

17.We think that the House Service should consider running a drop-in area, in conjunction with the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, for returning Members and their staff a few weeks after the next election to refresh memories about House services and procedures and to inform them of any changes that may affect them in the new parliament. (Paragraph 39)

18.We recommend that the General Election Planning Group again invites civil servants from Whitehall to test out the New Members’ Reception Area before the next election to ensure that the process and content is clear to those unfamiliar with Parliament. (Paragraph 40)

Induction Programme

19.The approach of cutting down the number of induction events run in the first few weeks, involving Members directly in their production, and focusing on the key information Members needed right away, led to the vast majority of new Members attending all the events on Induction Day. This approach should be repeated next time. (Paragraph 41)

20.The General Election Planning Group should consider ways of supplementing the induction briefings with more interactive training and activities in smaller groups which could be more tailored to their audience and would allow for more Q&A opportunities. (Paragraph 43)

21.The General Election Planning Group should explore the possibility of running a mock sitting of the Chamber on a party-by-party basis at the next election, in order to give Members the experience of speaking in the Chamber and to familiarise themselves with basic procedures and etiquette. (Paragraph 44)

22.The approach of having a simple and uniform visual identity for all induction materials provided by the House Service should be strengthened so that they are easily distinguishable. Clearly numbering the key documents (as well as using the colour-coding introduced in 2015) would also mean Members and staff could identify when they were missing documents in the sequence. (Paragraph 45)

23.We support plans to build better digital tools (such as apps) and online resources which Members can access as needed to complement the New Members’ Reception Area. As well as providing information on services, the tools should help new Members to orientate themselves on the Parliamentary Estate. (Paragraph 48)

24.To ensure that all Members have a basic understanding of how to navigate the business of the House before the start of the Parliament we recommend that the select committee induction session be replaced by a session covering the key procedural knowledge that new Members need in the first few weeks, including the House’s weekly timetable, at the next election. (Paragraph 49)

25.We encourage the General Election Planning Group to work closely with the Parliamentary Digital Service to develop apps and accessible online resources to supplement the induction session on procedure and one-to-one training as this would help new Members balance the demands on their time in the first few weeks and start to develop a basic understanding of Parliamentary procedure. (Paragraph 50)

Offices in Westminster

26.We commend the Whips and the Accommodation and Logistics Service for their hard work in coordinating office allocations and moves following the Election. (Paragraph 52)

27.The policy of asking departing Members to vacate their offices within five days of dissolution starting, or—for defeated Members—after Election Day, generally worked well and should be retained. A longer period, agreed with the Whips, should be retained for Members and/or staff departing following a by-election or death of a Member. (Paragraph 53)

Temporary hot-desking facilities

28.We recommend that the General Election Planning Group explores options for providing new Members and their staff with additional storage space for confidential documents, and ensures that information about obligations under data protection legislation is visible in the temporary hot-desking facilities at the next election. Sufficient confidential waste bags should also be made available in these offices. (Paragraph 56)

29.The General Election Planning Group should work with Members’ staff groups to identify the office resources needed in temporary offices (including stationery) and agree written advice to be placed in the rooms on what can be provided if required. We also recommend that the House Service explores, in light of available technology, ways of facilitating more flexible and remote working options, especially for new Members’ staff, which can be rolled out quickly while new Members await allocation of permanent offices. (Paragraph 58)

Getting offices set up

30.The Accommodation and Logistics Service and Parliamentary Digital Service should coordinate office setups better to minimise the number of visits needed to each office. (Paragraph 59)

Constituency office accommodation

31.The General Election Planning Group should work with IPSA, party representatives, and staff groups to create a simple guide to setting up a constituency office which could be included in the New Members’ Guidebook, online, and in welcome e-mails to Members’ staff when their accounts are activated (or reactivated). (Paragraph 61)

The cost of office space

32.In the interest of transparency IPSA should publish regularly clear guidance on how its Office Costs Expenditure budgets are currently calculated and benchmarked. (Paragraph 62)

33.If it has not done so as part of its review, IPSA should reconsider how Office Costs Expenditure (OCE) budgets, which cover renting a constituency office, are calculated to ensure that it is possible for all Members to have staff based in their constituencies. (Paragraph 63)

Choosing ICT equipment

34.We recommend that the Parliamentary Digital Service develop a short guide for Members on selecting the right equipment for their offices. The guide should offer a selection of standard packages that Members can choose from, depending on the way they like to work. This guide should be promoted in the New Members’ Reception Area and on the intranet. (Paragraph 64)

35.We recommend that the Parliamentary Digital Service updates the Committee with options for the range of devices which should be offered in the equipment catalogue at the next election, bearing in mind the requirement for hardware to be more compatible with Parliamentary systems and software. (Paragraph 65)

36.We would welcome an update during the current Parliament from the Parliamentary Digital Service on whether there is significant evidence to support need for the introduction of a mid-Parliament refresh of Members’ IT equipment. (Paragraph 66)

37.We recommend that the Parliamentary Digital Service ensures that information on the benefits of House-sourced ICT equipment is clearly conveyed in the equipment catalogue, by more prominently setting out what is included in the price. (Paragraph 67)

Delivery of equipment

38.The Parliamentary Digital Service should have a target for completing the refresh of exiting Members’ ICT equipment of the end of the summer recess following the next election (assuming a May election). (Paragraph 69)

39.The Parliamentary Digital Service should consider pre-ordering some commonly requested equipment so that it can be processed and despatched immediately. Any equipment from this pool not required by new Members could be used to fulfil subsequent orders from returning Members or the House Service, thus avoiding nugatory cost. (Paragraph 70)

40.We support further exploration of the steps proposed by the Parliamentary Digital Service in relation to improving delivery service standards in constituencies as well as the introduction of a named contact for each Member at the next election. We believe that this will improve the way in which interrelated issues are dealt with as well as enabling Digital Service staff to build relationships with individual Members and their staff. (Paragraph 71)

ICT support for constituency offices

41.We recommend a specific new Members’ constituency staff contact be appointed within the Parliamentary Digital Service. They should act as a key contact point and champion for constituency staff and ensure that they are able to access the help and training they need to get their offices fully operational as soon as possible. This contact should work with the member of staff leading on Members’ staff engagement by the House Service to make sure that services are communicated effectively to constituency staff. (Paragraph 72)

Funding for ICT equipment

42.We encourage the Parliamentary Digital Service and IPSA to explore options for allowing Members to use all of their ICT equipment budgets available through IPSA and the House, where they have sufficient funds for the required equipment across both budgets. (Paragraph 74)

Members’ Professional Development

43.At the end of the 2010 Parliament the Committee endorsed the approach of focusing resources for professional development at the point of need rather than running courses or events in anticipation of sufficient Members being able to attend to make them worthwhile. Given the unpredictable pressures on Members’ time and the need to ensure available funding is used effectively we believe this remains an appropriate strategy. (Paragraph 75)

44.The House Service should consider a simplified offer of professional development aimed at new Members immediately following the next election. It should be based on the core activities and skills that Members are likely to need in their first year, perhaps setting out the information in a similar way to a university prospectus with a clearer distinction between information and training offers. (Paragraph 76)

45.The House Service should work with Members and their staff ahead of preparations for the next election to identify the most appropriate methods to advertise professional development opportunities to Members. As part of this, the Parliamentary Digital Service should be engaged early in the process on the inclusion of information on Parliament’s intranet pages. (Paragraph 77)

46.The General Election Planning Group should continue to look at the activities provided by other legislatures as possible models for future professional development provision in the UK Parliament. (Paragraph 78)

47.Gaining cross-party support for Members to take part in the same kind of professional development that is simply taken for granted in other sectors (and indeed by staff of the House Service) will, over time, help to tackle the perception in some parts of the news media that investing in developing the skills and knowledge of Members of Parliament is reproachable. As in 2013 we will write to the Leaders of all parties represented at Westminster to encourage continued proactive support by the parties of the training programmes put in place following the next election. (Paragraph 79)

48.The House Service should consider inviting external organisations to deliver development and knowledge-sharing activities on the Estate, as well as facilitating more informal knowledge sharing between more experienced and newer Members. (Paragraph 80)

Induction and professional development for Members’ staff

49.We recommend that the ‘Members’ Staff Handbook’ be sent in hard-copy and by email to all Members’ offices following the next election and to constituency offices as they are set up. (Paragraph 83)

50.The House would benefit from imparting to Members’ staff some knowledge of procedure, because those staff would then be able to better advise their Member. More guidance and information for staff on giving tours of the Palace and on the process for booking rooms would contribute to a better visitor experience for members of the public. Requiring staff to complete fire safety training as part of their induction would also potentially benefit all occupants of the Estate. The House has a world-renowned research facility in the House of Commons Library but new Members’ research staff are not routinely signposted to it. The General Election Planning Group should work with staff representative groups to create a work stream focused on developing an induction programme for Members’ staff in both Westminster and constituencies. New research staff of Members should be advised to contact the Library in their first week to arrange an induction. (Paragraph 84)

51.Once an induction framework for Members’ staff has been agreed it should be passed to HR so that it can be applied for all Members’ staff at whatever stage they are recruited. The ‘Members’ Staff Handbook’ should also be updated to reflect the range of training available—highlighting essential training that all Members’ staff should undertake. (Paragraph 85)

Dissolution guidance and service levels

52.Issues with unclear dissolution guidance, poor timing of training for new staff, and late payment of resettlement grants could have been avoided through better prior engagement with Members and their staff. IPSA should work with the General Election Planning Group and the parties on engagement with Members and staff on dissolution guidance, timing of briefings for Members and dedicated contacts for Members. (Paragraph 90)

53.The introduction of named IPSA contacts for new Members should be repeated at the next election with the heightened service remaining in place at least until the end of the conference recess. Improved training of IPSA’s permanent staff is also needed to ensure that the quality and consistency of advice does not subsequently tail off. (Paragraph 91)

54.We repeat our recommendation from 2013 that IPSA establish a dedicated enquiries line for new Members following the next election for at least three months. (Paragraph 92)

Resettlement payments

55.We recommend that IPSA writes to this Committee in relation to its final decision on payment of resettlement grants to defeated Members following the next election, explaining how it will ensure they are not left considerably out of pocket for a prolonged period. (Paragraph 94)

Support for Members as employers and Members’ staff as employees

56.The General Election Planning Group should consider creation of simple guides, and videos for new Members on recruiting and managing staff. These should allow Members and their staff to quickly develop a basic understanding of their role, responsibilities, and sources of advice. These resources should be supplemented by on-demand training that recognises the differing levels of experience Members will have in directly employing and managing staff. (Paragraph 95)

57.The House Service should consider enhancing the HR advice service (either through temporary recruitment or an agency) by providing named contacts, similar to those employed by IPSA, to assist new Members until the end of the conference recess following the next general election. These temporary staff, under the guidance of the HR Advisory Service, would act as designated HR contacts to new Members, assisting with the initial process of hiring staff and providing general advice. (Paragraph 96)

58.The House Service should explore, with staff groups including the Members’ and Peers’ Staff Association (MAPSA), the possibility of facilitating a voluntary Members’ staff buddying scheme, through which experienced staff could advise new Members (of the same party) and their staff on recruitment, setting up an office, etc. (Paragraph 97)

Initial staffing needs

59.A study by the House Service on the feasibility of creating a pool of staff to provide Members with administrative support in the weeks following the next election would be welcome. These staff should ideally be experienced as they would need to get Members’ offices up and running quickly. Therefore, the General Election Planning Group should work with the parties and IPSA to explore creating a list of experienced Members’ staff who could (in the event that their Members are defeated or stand down) provide administrative assistance for new Members on short-term contracts. This would provide new Members with access to experienced staff without the pressure of making long-term recruitment decisions hastily. (Paragraph 98)

HR services for Members’ staff

60.We support the principle that Members continue to directly employ their staff. However, Members’ staff should be able to access support on day-to-day HR matters independent of their Member, including training, occupational health, and independent advice on handling employment issues before they can escalate to full grievances. For their staff, a Member is an employer, line manager and HR department unless they choose to individually contract out these functions. This is not a fair expectation of Members, whose focus should be on their parliamentary and constituency duties, nor does it lead to staff always being provided the support and advice they need. The House Service, along with the major parties, should explore the development of a centralised HR support service for Members’ staff, which could be funded jointly by the House and the parties. (Paragraph 100)

15 March 2017