3.In our first report of this session, agreed by the House in March this year, we made clear our expectation that all members of the House should attend the Valuing Everyone training course. Valuing Everyone is the Parliament-wide training programme designed to help ensure that everyone working at Parliament is able to recognise bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct, and feels confident taking action to tackle and prevent it. It was a key recommendation of the report of Naomi Ellenbogen QC that all members of the House should attend this course.
4.In our report we set a target that at least 50 per cent of members of the House should have attended the training by summer recess 2020. We also stated that we would review progress against the target and if necessary consider making non-attendance a breach of the Code of Conduct or attaching other sanctions. Since then we have received regular updates on attendance rates, and have noted possible reasons for increases and decreases in attendances over the last few months. We have also noted the move to online training sessions earlier this year, which means that all members of the House should be able to attend the training notwithstanding the pandemic. We take this opportunity to remind the House that the names of those members who have attended the training are published.
5.The House nearly met our target of 50 per cent attendance by the summer recess. At the end of the summer recess 366 or 47.8 per cent of members had attended. In deciding what steps to take next we have taken on board the views of the Steering Group for Change which is the group of members and staff who are keeping under review the progress towards implementing the recommendations of the Ellenbogen review. It is the view of that Group and of the Conduct Committee that we need to move more quickly towards all members of the House having undertaken the training. To that end we recommend that the House should make it a breach of the Code not to have undertaken Valuing Everyone training by 1 April 2021.
6.The period between now and 1 April provides sufficient time for all members to attend a course voluntarily, or at the least to sign up to attend a course on a specific date, and we hope all members will.
7.We recommend that the following new paragraph be inserted after paragraph 17 of the Code:
Members must attend the mandatory training established by the House to raise awareness of, and to prevent, bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct. Failure to attend the training by 1 April 2021 constitutes a breach of this Code for all members who joined the House before 1 January 2021 and are not on Leave of Absence or otherwise disqualified from attending the House. For new members and those returning from Leave of Absence/disqualification it is a breach not to attend the training within three months of introduction or return from Leave of Absence/disqualification.
8.We also recommend that the new words in bold are added to paragraph 114 of the Guide:
Members of the House are required to treat those with whom they come into contact in the course of their parliamentary duties and activities with respect and courtesy and members are required to attend the mandatory training established by the House to raise awareness of, and to prevent, bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct. Paragraph 17 of the Code states that behaviour that amounts to bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct constitutes a breach of the Code. The definitions of these behaviours were set out in detail in the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme Delivery Report published in July 2018 (see Appendix B for full definitions).
9.The Lords ICGS Implementation Lead, who holds records on which members have taken part in the training, will send monthly reminders between now and 1 April to those members who had not yet completed the training. After 1 April any members who have still not completed the training or signed up to a specific training date will be referred by the ICGS Implementation Lead to the Commissioner for Standards.
10.The Commissioner will open an inquiry into the members referred to her, though she shall be empowered to excuse particular members from investigation due to exceptional circumstances such as ongoing serious health problems.
11.The Commissioner will write to those members under investigation, seeking an explanation. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, she will consider restricting their access to certain services until training is complete and seek to agree that they attend the training as remedial action. The Commissioner will be able to do this in relation to Valuing Everyone training using the powers she already has at paragraphs 20 and 21 of the Code:
20. 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, and during the investigation the member must adhere to any restrictions on their access to the facilities and services of the House which the Commissioner may impose. The Commissioner may also inform the complainant and the relevant senior managers of any such restrictions.
21. After investigation the Commissioner makes a report of her 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 is normally published only on the Commissioner’s webpages. The Commissioner may make it a condition of any agreement on remedial action which includes training that the member must adhere to specific restrictions on their access to the facilities and services of the House until the training is complete, and the member must adhere to any such restrictions so agreed.
12.The Commissioner will publish one report covering all members with whom she agrees remedial action. Any members with whom she does not agree remedial action, or any member who ignored the restriction on access to services, will be liable to a recommendation for further sanctions.
1 Progress report and amendments to the rules of conduct, 5 March 2020 (HL Paper 34)
2 HL Deb, 16 March 2020, cols 1280-1281