Sleaze watchdog urges MPs to ‘push diversity and inclusion’ under overhaul of parliamentary rules
MPs could be required to promote ‘anti-racism, inclusion and diversity’ under a controversial overhaul of parliamentary rules, it emerged last night.
The Commons standards committee yesterday published a package of reforms to clean up Westminster in the wake of the row over second jobs and ‘sleaze’.
The proposals included a ban on MPs having paid roles on the side advising firms on how to lobby or influence Parliament.
MPs could be required to promote ‘anti-racism, inclusion and diversity’ under a controversial overhaul of parliamentary rules, it emerged last night
They would have to sign contracts agreeing not to lobby ministers under the shake-up.
But the sleaze watchdog also suggested adding a new principle of ‘respect’ to the code of conduct, which governs behaviour in the Commons.
Under the proposals, MPs would be told they ‘should demonstrate anti-discriminatory attitudes and behaviours through the promotion of anti-racism, inclusion and diversity’.
But the move was described as ‘woke’ by critics who said it was unnecessary since ‘discrimination is already against the law’ and that they did ‘not see why we need to state the obvious when it comes to decency’.
Boris Johnson has struggled to contain raft of sleaze allegations against the Tories following the Owen Paterson row
Oops! Davey refers himself for ‘oversight’
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has referred himself to Parliament’s anti-sleaze watchdog in relation to an ‘oversight’.
He will be investigated by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone over a possible breach of rules on the registration and declaration of an interest.
But a Lib Dem source insisted that Sir Ed had made only a ‘minor clerical error’.
Earlier this month Sir Ed announced he was resigning from his consultancy roles with the law firm Herbert Smith Freehills and energy company Next Energy Capital amid the row about MPs’ second jobs.
He was paid £78,000 for the roles – though said the funds would be used to benefit his disabled son.
Sir Ed has previously claimed the Conservatives are ‘mired in corruption and sleaze’ over the botched bid to spare Owen Paterson from suspension over his breach of lobbying rules.
A Lib Dems spokesman said last night: ‘Ed referred himself to the commissioner last week after noticing an oversight.
‘Ed has been asked by the Commissioner not to provide any further comment on her communication with him at this time.’
Other recommendations included banning MPs from subjecting anyone to ‘unreasonable and excessive personal attack’ both in the Commons and on social media.
On their rationale for adding the new ‘respect’ principle, the committee said: ‘We note that the current code already includes a statement that members are also expected to observe the principles set out in the Parliamentary Behaviour Code, of respect, professionalism, understanding others’ perspectives, courtesy, and acceptance of responsibility.
‘We consider that formalising this expectation as a separate principle will underline the House’s commitment to the Behaviour Code and the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme.
‘We also consider that it is important that the code makes explicit reference to anti-racism, inclusion and diversity.’
The proposals will now be the subject of consultation before final recommendations are published in the New Year, with a Commons vote expected before Easter.
The changes were backed unanimously by members of the cross-party committee – but an anonymous survey of backbenchers conducted as part of the review, found opposition to the new ‘respect’ principle.
‘I don’t think it’s a good idea or necessary,’ said one.
‘It’s a load of rubbish. If you start trying to police that, you’ll get away from your core. This organisation is just trying to be woke.’
Another said: ‘No, it’s nonsense. You’re leaving yourself way open all the time to interpretation.’
A further MP said: ‘You wouldn’t want to flatten out the cut and thrust of parliamentary debate.’
The report stated MPs who backed the move believed it would help ‘to counter unconscious bias and/or underlying racism’.
Alongside the principles, the code also sets out rules on their behaviour. MPs can only be investigated for alleged breaches of the rules rather than the principles.
Downing Street said it would ‘engage closely with the proposals’ but refused to be drawn in on when the Government might respond to the recommendations.