Independent Complaints and Grievance Policy

On Wednesday 28 February 2018, I responded to the Leader of the House’s statement on the Independent Complaints and Grievance Policy. You can read my speech below:

Valerie Vaz: I thank the Leader of the House for opening the debate. This is the fourth time that the matter has been before the House and it is good that we can continue to debate this important topic in this way. We have had three statements and now this motion. If we cast our minds back, our first meeting was on Monday 6 November 2017, with the Prime Minister and the leaders and representatives of other parties. The report was published on 8 February 2018, and I have passed it on to every Member of the Opposition. I place on record my thanks to all the staff involved for putting together the report and all colleagues who were involved in the working group.

All the motion does is set out the work that the House authorities have to undertake. There needs to be time to look at how to put the processes and procedures in place, and, of course, a working group cannot do that. To pick up the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for York Central (Rachael Maskell), who worked in this sector, she will have an opportunity to feed in to the full-time, permanent person who will be dealing with this.

The Leader of the House outlined in detail exactly the work that needs to be done, so I will confine myself briefly to two areas: training and the steering group. On training, I do not consider any training programme to be onerous. It is not a judgment on people’s views, but just ensures that everyone is in the same place. It will be useful for all Members to be updated with the latest practices and acceptable behaviour in a modern workplace.

Rachael Maskell: Can we not ensure that training is mandatory and face-to-face, and that it is brought in this year, so that we do not have to wait until the next Parliament?

Valerie Vaz: I thank my hon. Friend for her comments. That is exactly what I would want to see from any training programme. As the Leader of the House outlined, we expect something to be put in place after three months, when the permanent person has looked at all the details of what they have to do.

Secondly, the steering group will monitor the work that has been done. As the Leader of the House knows, the working group was set up on an ad hoc basis. A few people have been asked to and were allowed to join the group, but in my view, the steering group should be a bit more representative and perhaps include other groups and unions. I would support the inclusion of the House trade union side to widen the representation slightly, but perhaps the numbers on the steering group need to be reduced.

Most importantly, a number of new initiatives were set up. When events first hit us in November, Mr Speaker acted very swiftly and extended the helpline so that it was a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week helpline from Health Assured. It would be useful to have the figures on how that is being used, perhaps at the next Commission meeting, because it will then have been six months since it was extended to every single person working on the Estate.

I do not underestimate the amount of work that the House authorities need to do. Although it is useful to get updates from time to time, they need to be left to get on with the work, consulting my right hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Sir Kevin Barron) and his Committee, the Select Committee on Standards; the hon. Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) and his Committee, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee; and all other hon. Members who feel that they have something to offer. Only when processes are in place and being used will we know if they are robust and command the support of those who seek to use them.

The Opposition support the motion as tabled and amended and look forward to being updated. We thank the staff for taking on this task, so that we have a truly modern Parliament, where everyone knows the boundaries of acceptable behaviour in a safe and secure workplace.