I was delighted when the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme was passed by the Commons unanimously and without a vote. This is a huge step forward for everyone who works in Parliament – not just MPs or Peers but also the thousands of passholders who support us through the crucial roles they play.
Our new behaviour code, complaints scheme, and sanctions move us closer to our ultimate ambition of a culture where people can work and visit Parliament, and take part in our democracy, free from unacceptable behaviour, free from bullying or harassment, and where individuals are free to thrive and make a difference.
In this scheme we have sought to put the complainant at the heart of the process. All the evidence we have taken demonstrates that confidentiality is a key factor in encouraging victims to come forward. Therefore, the serious step that we have taken to change the culture of Parliament is to make sure that confidentiality and consistency are core fundamental elements.
The Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme will significantly extend the scope of the Independent Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to consider complaints arising from the scheme. With increased access to a wider range of sanctions, she will be able to deal much more effectively with a spectrum of complaints.
This is the first step, not the final step, towards the culture change that we all want. It seeks to ensure that everyone in and working for Parliament is respected and valued, as well as taking a zero-tolerance approach to bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct. Unacceptable behaviour will be dealt with by serious and effective sanctions.
This is a once-in-a-generation change for Parliament. We want to be a role model for legislatures around the world in our determination to tackle our own challenges head on. Many millions of people across the world look to Westminster as a beacon of democracy and freedom, and I am proud that we have taken this bold step towards a fairer workplace.
I am grateful to all of the staff and members of both Houses who sat on the Working Group and the Steering Group that I chaired, and who worked tirelessly to bring about this important new policy. I would also like to pay tribute to everyone who came forward to give evidence to our proceedings and who spoke with such courage about their experiences. Without their testimonies, we may not have reached this turning point.
You can find more information about the scheme here.