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Standards committee for Welsh Parliament consults on new code of conduct including new principle of ‘Respect’

The Senedd Cymru's standards committee last month launched a consultation on a proposed new Code of Conduct for Members of the Senedd.

If the new Code is agreed, the Senedd's Members would be subject to the standards of behaviour set out in the Code - including a new principle of 'Respect' - after the election in May 2021.

The committee said it believed that the addition of a 'Respect' principle would now be appropriate, reflecting:

  1. The independent inquiry report on the Bullying and Harassment of the House of Commons staff which led to the adoption of the Senedd's Dignity and Respect Policy.
  2. Wider movements in society such as #MeToo and Black Lives Matter.

The committee said the code outlines how Members should engage with each other as well with staff, stakeholders and the public.

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The proposed Code also makes it clear that those standards of behaviour should apply to Members at all times, "including in their personal and private lives". 

If anyone believes that a Member has not met the standards of behaviour set out in the Code, they can make a complaint to the independent Commissioner for Standards.

In its consultation, the committee asks whether the current complaints procedure works or whether it should be changed in any way. The current Code was agreed in May 2016.

The proposed new Code does not refer specifically to the use of social media but says that members "must not subject anyone to personal attack in any communication (whether verbal, in writing or any form or electronic or other medium) - in a manner that would be considered excessive or abusive by a reasonable and impartial person, having regard to the context in which the remarks were made".

By including a new principle of 'Respect', the committee hopes the new code can address some of these concerns by setting a respectful standard of debate and encouraging people of all backgrounds to get involved in politics.

Following the consultation the committee will present the new Code to the Senedd who will decide, as a whole, whether or not to agree to it. 

It is intended that this review will be completed by the end of the current Senedd in preparation for the next Senedd.

Jayne Bryant MS, Chair of the Senedd's Standards Committee, said: “The Code of Conduct sets the standard and tone of political debate, and now more than ever it is important to get this right.

"With a serious problem of online abuse and powerful campaigns such as the #MeToo movement and Black Lives Matter, we've got to do all we can to improve the tone of debate and set a standard that encourages trust in elected representatives and inspires people from all backgrounds to stand for election.

"We're keen to hear the view of people from across Wales on the refreshed Code of Conduct for Members of the Senedd." 

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