Creating the Right Culture: National Assembly committee recommends new dignity and respect procedures
Inappropriate behaviour has no place in a parliament. Anyone who feels they have experienced inappropriate behaviour should have full confidence they can report it and that it will be taken seriously, says a National Assembly committee.
The Standards of Conduct Committee has been reviewing the Assembly Commission's dignity and respect policy which was brought in after a number of previously unreported incidences of sexual harassment or bullying behaviour came to light.
The Committee recognises the progress the Commission has made so far in setting up a confidential helpline and making information available about how to report inappropriate behaviour at the Assembly.
But members concluded that information could be clearer still and that an anonymous reporting procedure should be put in place. During their inquiry, the committee heard evidence about similar systems which are already used in universities and other organisations.
The Committee has recommended a 'mystery shopper' exercise be carried out on existing guidance to make sure all information is accessible and user friendly.
The Committee also wants to see more support made available to the independent Standards Commissioner including offering advice to those who are uncertain about whether to make a complaint.
The issue of whether an Assembly Member has breached the ministerial code or the Assembly's code of conduct was also considered by the Committee. Currently there is a distinction between when someone is acting as an AM or member of the government.
The Committee concluded that this distinction is confusing and has suggested that to avoid the risk of ambiguity all complaints, whether against someone as an AM or government minister, should be considered by the independent Standards Commissioner.
The committee concluded that anyone working on the Assembly estate, either through contract or lease arrangements, should agree to abide by the Assembly's dignity and respect policy if their organisation doesn't have one in place. The same should apply to all those hosting an event on the estate.
"As elected politicians we have a responsibility to ensure that we set the highest standards as an example to wider society," said Jayne Bryant AM, Chair of the Standards of Conduct Committee.
"Every one of us must take responsibility for the kind of environment in which we want to work.
"We must not tolerate inappropriate behaviour within our institution and it must be called out wherever we see it.
"I don't want anyone to think this is the end of the conversation as the Committee has identified further work to be done in this area. We intend to follow this up to ensure people have confidence in reporting incidents and that the process for doing so is clear.
"It is crucial people feel supported and are reassured that their complaint is being taken seriously."
The Committee makes 21 recommendations in its report, including:
- That the First Minister work with the Standards Commissioner to establish a protocol by Summer 2019 whereby all complaints are referred to the office of the Commissioner and that the Commissioner subsequently report to the relevant body.
- That the Assembly Commission develops an online reporting tool which allows people to report incidents of inappropriate behaviour either anonymously or through a named disclosure by summer 2019; and,
- That the Assembly Commission include in leases and contracts for the use of the Assembly estate the condition that organisations must have a/or abide by the Assembly's dignity and respect policy.
If anyone has any concerns about the behaviour of somebody who works on the Assembly estate, there are a number of options available:
A confidential telephone line: 0800 020 9550 can help direct people to the right avenue;
Email email@example.com; and
Assembly website - Complaints about Conduct.
Anyone who wishes to make a complaint about an Assembly Member can also talk to the independent Standards Commissioner:
Telephone: 0300 200 6539;
Email firstname.lastname@example.org; and
Website – the Standards Commissioner.