Following our joint statement on 15 November, a number of measures have been taken with the aim of making the Assembly an inclusive organisation free from intimidation and harassment. This statement provides an update on those improvements and sets out our plan for completing the next stages of this work before the Easter recess.
We remain committed to ensuring that inappropriate behaviour has no place at the National Assembly for Wales. We want everyone who works here and those who visit us, wherever that is, in a constituency office, village hall or the Senedd, to feel safe and free from any form of harassment.
We expect everyone who works here, Assembly Members, Commission staff, Assembly Member support staff and our contractors, to demonstrate the same high standards.
A new Dignity and Respect policy
Our focus has been on developing a Dignity and Respect policy that will state clearly our expectations about personal behaviour and provide clarity about complaint routes, so that everyone, whoever they are, knows how and where to discuss any issues or concerns. The Assembly Commission, Remuneration Board and the Committee on Standards of Conduct have each commented on the draft policy and we are about to formally consult with our trade unions, Assembly Members and the staff they employ.
A confidential referral service
A confidential telephone line (0800 020 9550) and mailbox (DignityandRespect@Assembly.Wales), managed during office hours by HR professionals, has been set up to assist callers considering whether to access a complaint route. Our aim is to encourage staff, visitors and indeed any individual to contact us if they have experienced, or are experiencing, behaviour that they are not comfortable with. This service has been promoted via internal communication channels and on posters made available across the Assembly estate reaffirming our commitment to providing a safe place to work and visit.
Website complaint page
We have made interim changes to how we present information on our website about our complaints procedures, to make it clearer and more accessible. Further improvements will be made once the Dignity and Respect policy has been approved by the Assembly. Our existing complaints page can be found here.
Following our statement on 15 November, the Llywydd has asked the Standards Commissioner, Sir Roderick Evans, to review how the political parties’ policies and procedures can be aligned with the proposed Dignity and Respect policy. The Commissioner has held initial meetings with party groups to review their policies, and is intending to feedback to the Standards of Conduct Committee in due course.
The Standards of Conduct Committee’s inquiry “Creating the Right Culture – a review into the Code of Conduct for Assembly Members”
The Committee’s inquiry is considering the existing procedures around complaints against Assembly Members to ensure they are appropriate and clear so that individuals feel able to come forward with confidence about any concerns regarding inappropriate behaviour.
The Committee is looking specifically at:
- How the complaints procedure could be simplified
- Is the guidance clear? Is the language used simple to understand?
- Does the document help you understand who you should contact about different types of complaints?
- If you were a victim of inappropriate behaviour, would you feel confident in using the procedure as it currently stands?
The inquiry was launched on 11 December 2017 and aims to conclude its work by May 2018.
The Committee is also reviewing the sanctions available to ensure that any incidents of inappropriate behaviour are dealt with appropriately.
A programme of harassment awareness training is being rolled out. This is not a one-off: it will form an ongoing and integral part of our continuous professional development programme for Members and their staff. Each of the group leaders in the Assembly has agreed to urge their Members to attend this training. This training will complement the existing arrangements for Assembly Commission staff.
Before Easter, we aim to take a cross-party motion to Plenary so that the new, clearer, policy is approved formally and that it is explicitly aligned to the Code of Conduct for Members. As previously mentioned, this will put in place the overarching Dignity and Respect policy to state clearly our expectations about the personal behaviour of our elected Members, Commission staff and Assembly Member Support staff. Other work mentioned in this statement will flow from this once it is approved by the Assembly.
We will be asking the Remuneration Board to review other policies and procedures for staff employed by Members to ensure that they complement the new Dignity and Respect policy. Assembly Commission policies are also being reviewed for the same reasons.
We collectively thank those who have offered their views during the last few months. We have tried hard to reflect them in the actions taken so far, or in our plans for the next few months. In particular, we have been reviewing the practical and emotional support that is provided for all individuals involved in a complaints process. In the next few weeks we will have formalised an arrangement so that, in addition to signposting individuals to the appropriate procedural advice, we will ensure that ongoing face to face support is provided.
In this context, we are keen to establish whether we are creating the right atmosphere to enable people to discuss complaints about conduct and would welcome views so that the Standards of Conduct Committee can take them into account in their deliberations. The Committee will be exploring the views of key stakeholders at a round-table meeting on 27 February.
However, the views of users will be important before the Committee concludes its inquiry. If you feel that there are specific barriers which prevent people from coming forward with their complaints, please let the Committee know. SeneddStandards@Assembly.Wales
Our intention is to continue building on the framework we have in place in order to create the right culture and to ensure that we have accessible policies, procedures and support for those coming forward to discuss their concerns. This statement and the work put in place to date demonstrates our commitment to continue working together on a cross-party basis to achieve our aims. We recognise that there is more to do to ensure that the Assembly is a place free from harassment.
The Standards of Conduct Committee’s work will conclude later in the Spring and we value the input that individuals have made so far to help shape the development of our improvements. We therefore encourage anyone who has experience of using our services to provide us with feedback so that we can continuously improve them.
Elin Jones AM, Presiding Officer, National Assembly for Wales
Jayne Bryant AM, Chair of the Standards of Conduct Committee
Carwyn Jones AM, Leader of Welsh Labour
Andrew R T Davies AM, Leader of the Welsh Conservative Group in the National Assembly
Leanne Wood AM, Leader of Plaid Cymru
Neil Hamilton AM, Leader of UKIP in Wales
Kirsty Williams AM, Welsh Liberal Democrats