Companion to the Standing Orders and Guide to the Proceedings of the House of Lords

Contents




 

CHAPTER 5

MEMBERS' CONDUCT


5

5.01  Members' conduct in the course of their parliamentary duties is governed by a Code of Conduct,[1] and an accompanying Guide to the Code of Conduct.[2] The full text of the Code is as follows:

Code of Conduct for Members of the House of Lords

Introduction

1.  The House of Lords is the second chamber of the United Kingdom Parliament. As a constituent part of Parliament, the House of Lords makes laws, holds government to account, and debates issues of public interest.

2.  Membership of the House is not an office, and does not constitute employment; most Members' primary employment is or has been outside Parliament. In discharging their parliamentary duties Members of the House of Lords draw substantially on experience and expertise gained outside Parliament.

3.  The purpose of this Code of Conduct is

(a)  to provide guidance for Members of the House of Lords on the standards of conduct expected of them in the discharge of their parliamentary duties; save for paragraphs 16 and 17, the Code does not extend to Members' performance of duties unrelated to parliamentary proceedings, or to their private lives;

(b)  to provide the openness and accountability necessary to reinforce public confidence in the way in which Members of the House of Lords perform their parliamentary duties.

4.  This Code applies to all Members of the House of Lords who are not either

(a)  on leave of absence;

(b)  suspended from the service of the House; or

(c)  statutorily disqualified from active membership.

5.  Members are to sign an undertaking to abide by the Code as part of the ceremony of taking the oath upon introduction and at the start of each Parliament.

General principles

6.  By virtue of their oath, or affirmation, of allegiance, Members of the House have a duty to be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty The Queen, Her heirs and successors, according to law.

7.  In the conduct of their parliamentary duties, Members of the House shall base their actions on consideration of the public interest, and shall resolve any conflict between their personal interest and the public interest at once, and in favour of the public interest.

8.  Members of the House:

(a)  must comply with the Code of Conduct;

(b)  should act always on their personal honour;

(c)  must never accept or agree to accept any financial inducement as an incentive or reward for exercising parliamentary influence;

(d)  must not seek to profit from membership of the House by accepting or agreeing to accept payment or other incentive or reward in return for providing parliamentary advice or services.

9.  Members of the House should observe the seven general principles of conduct identified by the Committee on Standards in Public Life. These principles will be taken into consideration when any allegation of breaches of the provisions in other sections of the Code is under investigation and should act as a guide to Members in considering the requirement to act always on their personal honour:

(a)  Selflessness: Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.

(b)  Integrity: Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.

(c)  Objectivity: Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.

(d)  Accountability: Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.

(e)  Openness: Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.

(f)  Honesty: Holders of public office should be truthful.

(g)  Leadership: Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.

Rules of conduct

10.  In order to assist in openness and accountability Members shall:

(a)  register in the Register of Lords' Interests all relevant interests, in order to make clear what are the interests that might reasonably be thought to influence their parliamentary actions;

(b)  declare when speaking in the House, or communicating with ministers or public servants, any interest which is a relevant interest in the context of the debate or the matter under discussion;

(c)  act in accordance with any rules agreed by the House in respect of financial support for Members or the facilities of the House.

11.  The test of relevant interest is whether the interest might be thought by a reasonable member of the public to influence the way in which a Member of the House of Lords discharges their parliamentary duties: in the case of registration, the Member's parliamentary duties in general; in the case of declaration, their duties in respect of the particular matter under discussion.

12.  The test of relevant interest is therefore not whether a Member's actions in Parliament will be influenced by the interest, but whether a reasonable member of the public might think that this might be the case. Relevant interests include both financial and non-financial interests.

13.  Members are responsible for ensuring that their registered interests are accurate and up-to-date. They should register any change in their relevant interests within one month of the change.

14.  A Member must not act as a paid advocate in any proceeding of the House; that is to say, he or she must not seek by parliamentary means to confer exclusive benefit on an outside body or person from which he or she receives payment or reward.

15.  Members are not otherwise debarred from participating in proceedings in regard to which they possess relevant interests, financial or non-financial; but such interests should be declared fully. In participating in such proceedings they should ensure that there is no conflict between their declared interests and the public interest.

16.  A Member sentenced to imprisonment in the United Kingdom for a term of up to and including one year, or given a suspended sentence of imprisonment in the United Kingdom of any length, shall be deemed to have breached the Code; such a case shall be referred to the Sub-Committee on Lords' Conduct for it to recommend a sanction.

17.  A Member sentenced to imprisonment outside the United Kingdom, whether the sentence is suspended or not, shall be presumed to have breached the Code; such a case shall be referred to the Sub-Committee on Lords' Conduct for it to consider whether the presumption should apply in that case and, if it should, for the Sub-Committee to recommend a sanction.

Enforcement of the Code of Conduct

18.  A House of Lords Commissioner for Standards is appointed to investigate alleged breaches of this Code, or of the rules governing Members' financial support or use of parliamentary facilities. Any such investigation is conducted in accordance with procedures set out in the Guide to the Code of Conduct.

19.  After investigation the Commissioner makes a report of his findings. If the Member is found not to have breached the Code, or if the Member and the Commissioner have agreed remedial action, the report goes to the Committee for Privileges and Conduct. If the Member is found to have breached the Code (and remedial action is inappropriate or has not been agreed), the Commissioner's report goes to the Sub-Committee on Lords' Conduct; the Sub-Committee reviews the Commissioner's findings and, where appropriate, recommends a disciplinary sanction to the Committee for Privileges and Conduct. The Member concerned has a right of appeal to the Committee for Privileges and Conduct against both the Commissioner's findings and any recommended sanction.

20.  The Committee for Privileges and Conduct, having heard any appeal, reports its conclusions and recommendations to the House. The final decision rests with the House.

21.  In investigating and adjudicating allegations of non-compliance with this Code, the Commissioner, the Sub-Committee on Lords' Conduct and the Committee for Privileges and Conduct shall act in accordance with the principles of natural justice and fairness.

22.  Members shall co-operate, at all stages, with any investigation into their conduct by or under the authority of the House.

23.  No Member shall lobby a member of the Committee for Privileges and Conduct or the Sub-Committee on Lords' Conduct in a manner calculated or intended to influence their consideration of a complaint of a breach of this Code.

Advice and review

24.  The operation of the Register is overseen by the Sub-Committee on Lords' Conduct, assisted by the Registrar of Lords' Interests. The Registrar is available to advise Members of the House, and may consult the Sub-Committee when necessary.

25.  A Member who acts on the advice of the Registrar in determining what is a relevant interest satisfies fully the requirements of the Code of Conduct in that regard. However, the final responsibility for deciding whether or not to participate in proceedings to which that interest is relevant rests with the Member concerned.

26.  The Sub-Committee on Lords' Conduct reviews the Code of Conduct once each Parliament. Its findings, along with any recommended changes to the Code, are reported to the House.

27.  The Sub-Committee also keeps the Guide to the Code of Conduct under regular review; recommended changes are reported to the House and will not take effect until agreed by the House.[3]

The Guide to the Code of Conduct

5.02  The operation of the Code of Conduct is kept under review by the Sub-Committee on Lords' Conduct, a sub-committee of the Committee for Privileges and Conduct. As well as reviewing the Code itself once each Parliament, the Sub-Committee keeps the Guide to the Code of Conduct under regular review.[4] This Guide has been agreed by resolution of the House, and is binding upon members. Any change to the Guide must be reported to the House and no change can take effect until agreed by the House. Copies of the up-to-date text of the Guide are available online, from the Printed Paper Office or from the Registrar of Lords' Interests. The Registrar is available to advise members on the rules governing members' conduct.

Enforcement

5.03  The procedure for investigating complaints is set out in full in the Guide to the Code of Conduct. In summary, responsibility for investigating alleged breaches of the Code rests with the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards, who is an independent officer appointed by the House as a whole. Following her investigation, the Commissioner makes a report of her findings of fact and offers her own conclusion on whether the Code has been breached. If the Commissioner finds a member to have breached the Code (and remedial action is inappropriate or has not been agreed) her report goes to the Sub-Committee on Lords' Conduct. The Sub-Committee reviews the Commissioner's findings, may comment on them and, where appropriate, recommends a sanction. The reports of the Commissioner and Sub-Committee are presented to the Committee for Privileges and Conduct, and the member concerned has a right of appeal against both the Commissioner's findings and any recommended sanction. Having heard any appeal, the Committee for Privileges and Conduct reports to the House and the final decision rests with the House.

Disciplinary powers

5.04  The Houses possesses an inherent power to discipline its members; the means by which it chooses to exercise this power falls within the regulation by the House of its own procedures. The duty imposed upon members, by virtue of writs of summons, to attend Parliament, is subject to various implied conditions, which are reflected in the many rules governing the conduct of members which have been adopted over time by the House.

5.05  The House has power to pass Standing Orders under which it may by resolution expel a member or suspend a member for the period specified in the resolution.[5] A motion to suspend or expel a member must follow a recommendation from the Committee for Privileges and Conduct that the member be expelled or suspended (as the case may be) because the member has breached the Code of Conduct. A motion to suspend or expel a member must state that, in the opinion of the House, the conduct giving rise to the resolution occurred on or after 26 June 2015 (the date the House of Lords (Expulsion and Suspension) Act 2015 came into force) or occurred before 26 June 2015 and was not public knowledge before that time. A motion to suspend a member must specify the period for which the suspension is to last (which may be until the occurrence of a specified event). Notice must be given of a motion to expel or suspend a member. Expulsion or suspension takes effect as soon as the House has agreed the motion.[6]

5.06  In the event of a member being suspended, the member concerned is expected to leave the Chamber without delay.[7] Suspended members have no access to the precincts of the House of Lords estate (including as guests) or to services provided to members. Suspended members' security passes are cancelled, as are those of their staff, spouses and partners. Suspended members are ineligible to claim financial support from the House during the period for which they are suspended, are not entitled to receive parliamentary papers from the Printed Paper Office, and cannot use any parliamentary ICT applications.[8]

5.07  The House has the power to deny a member access for a specified period of time to the system of financial support for members and/or to the facilities of the House. These sanctions can be applied for any period of time and may be applied in addition to a sanction of suspension.[9]

 

 

 




[1] The Code was first agreed on 30 November 2009 and amended on 30 March 2010, 12 June 2014, 25 February 2016 and and March 2017.

[2] The Guide was first agreed on 16 March 2010 and amended on 9 November 2011, 6 March 2014, 13 May 2014 and, 24 March 2015, 25 February 2016 and March 2017.

[3] LJ (2009-10) 37-40; amended 16 March 2010, 12 June 2014, 25 February 2016 and March 2017.

[4] Privileges 2nd Rpt 2009-10.

[5] House of Lords (Expulsion and Suspension) Act 2015, s. 1.

[6] SO 12.

[7] Procedure Committee minutes 18 May 2009.

[8] House Committee minutes 19 May 2009.

[9] House Committee 1st Rpt 2013-14.

 
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