Commonwealth Parliamentary Association launched Updated ‘Standards for Codes of Conduct for MPs and the Parliamentary Workplace’

Parliamentarians are entrusted with significant power and responsibility in a democratic society and as such must demonstrate the highest ethical standards. As stipulated in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s Recommended Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures, Parliaments should promote values around ethical governance.
Codes of conduct for Members of Parliament help to maintain public trust and establish ethical standards, help to prevent corruption and the abuse of power, and seek to prevent harassment and bullying within the workplace. Guidelines also provide a framework for public officers to uphold the highest standards of good governance.
As a result of extensive research and consultation with Parliaments across the world, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association has published the ‘Standards for Codes of Conduct for Members of Parliament and the Parliamentary Workplace’ for use by Parliaments and Legislatures.

Speaking about the updated standards, the CPA Secretary-General, Stephen Twigg said:
“I strongly encourage all Parliamentarians and parliamentary officials to study the CPA’s updated ‘Standards for Codes of Conduct for Members of Parliament and the Parliamentary Workplace’. The CPA recognises that no single Parliament is a source of ‘best practice’ in all areas and that all Parliaments are sources of valuable innovations regardless of their size or age and that in fact there are many forms of ‘good practice’; which is why the updated Standards for Codes of Conduct are so valuable as they are drawn from good practice across the Commonwealth.
The CPA’s commitment in championing the highest principles of parliamentary democracy mean that we will continue to work with Commonwealth Parliaments to help them adopt new or updated Codes of Conduct where requested.”
The updated ‘Standards for Codes of Conduct for Members of Parliament and the Parliamentary Workplace’ have evolved from the CPA’s previous ‘Recommended Benchmarks for Codes of Conduct Applying to Members of Parliament’, first published in 2016 and utilised by many Parliaments in establishing their own Codes of Conduct. With the need for continuous improvement and tackling the additional challenges of harassment, bullying and abuse in the workplace as well as the challenges of new technology and online harms, the CPA Secretariat worked with Deakin University to develop an updated set of Standards for Codes of Conduct.
The CPA ‘Standards for Codes of Conduct for Members of Parliament and the Parliamentary Workplace’ are available to download on the CPA website

Here is the INTRODUCTION of the report:

Why codes of conduct, standards of behaviour and related structures are important For a parliament to effectively perform its functions, it must ensure a high level of integrity of its Members and its operations. The public’s trust in its elected Members of Parliament is a fundamental aspect of good governance and an open, democratic society. Members of Parliament have individual responsibility for the functioning and integrity of the Parliament in two fundamental ways:

  1. By upholding the ideals of democratic government, particularly by respecting the separation of powers and the rule of law; and
  2. By demonstrating high standards of integrity and ethical behaviour, including workplace behaviour, consistent with their important public interest roles, especially when they are making laws for their community and scrutinising the government. Codes of conduct for Members and standards of behaviour expected of all persons at the parliamentary workplace can help a parliament to function with integrity, to encourage ethical behaviour, and build public trust. Updating the CPA Benchmarks 2016

The CPA published its inaugural Recommended Benchmarks for Codes of Conduct applying to Members of Parliament in 2016. These provide some enduring content and well researched guidance for this updated Standards for Codes of Conduct.

Since 2016, several conduct issues in parliaments around the world have necessitated a revision of the scope of codes of conduct and related structures. There is increasing recognition that parliaments are both law-making institutions and workplaces in which Members, staff and others should be safe and respected.

In the same period, social media and artificial intelligence have developed rapidly, and the ethical handling of information has become increasingly complex. This publication has updated the content of the earlier version in line with emerging standards and expectations. It also updates the terminology from ‘Benchmarks’ to ‘Standards’.

How to use these standards Implementation

The standards are designed to facilitate best practice by enabling incremental implementation from minimum standards to additional measures.

This design recognises that CPA member parliaments vary greatly in size, resources, cultural settings, and parliamentary practice.

We recommend flexibility in the implementation of codes of conduct. However, all CPA parliaments should implement at least the minimum standards of conduct.

The standards are designed so that a parliament can monitor its progress in a meaningful way, separate from a more formal self-assessment or external assessment. They are not intended to be the exact measures for assessment of implementation, but rather serve as the basis for developing a separate assessment tool.

Written guidance may be developed to accompany the code but not form part of it unless the guidelines have been resolved by the Parliament as enforceable rules in addition to the code of conduct. The most common and practical purpose of guidelines is to assist in understanding the rules in the code, not to provide additional rules. Recommended Benchmarks for Codes of Conduct applying to Members of Parliament Published by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association

A separate code of conduct for Ministers should be developed within government. A separate code for ministerial staff should similarly be established within government, but this should not exempt ministerial staff from behavioural standards in the parliamentary workplace whenever they are on the parliamentary precinct.

Standing Orders/Resolutions, Legislation, or both?

Existing codes of conduct for Members of Parliament throughout the CPA’s membership may be found in standing orders, standing resolutions and/or legislation.

Related or complementary functions and structures, such as ethics / integrity advisers, standards commissions and workplace support services are found in both standing orders/resolutions and/or legislation.

Who develops the written guidance might depend on whether the code is legislated or found in standing orders or standing resolutions. Where the code is legislated on the basis of work done by government officials in support of the government of the day, it may be more likely that the government will also take responsibility for preparing the written guidance.

However, when the code is in standing orders or standing resolutions, the House may delegate the writing of guidance to the presiding officer (assisted by the clerk), a procedure/standing orders/ethics committee, a corporate board of the Parliament or similar body. The code itself may require one of these groups to prepare written guidance.

Standards organised into themes The standards for codes of conduct and related structures (advisory and enforcement processes and offices) are organised into nine themes.

  1. Commitment to parliamentary democracy, institutional integrity and a code of conduct
  2. General conduct in public office
  3. Disclosure and publication of financial and other interests and conflicts of interest
  4. Commitment to a safe and respectful workplace
  5. Online behaviour, social media, artificial intelligence and information management
  6. Complaints, independent investigations, and procedural fairness
  7. Rectification and sanctions
  8. Ethics adviser
  9. Awareness and education Each theme has minimum standards that should be adopted by all Commonwealth parliaments. Each theme also has additional measures that may be adopted now or in the future by some parliaments; for other parliaments, because of contextual factors associated with the countries in which they operate, these additional measures might only ever be partially adopted.

The minimum standards and additional measures are followed by a discussion about the key considerations for standards of conduct and related structures, which is intended to prompt consideration of the context in which each parliament operates (such as its size and financial capacity, parliamentary practice, cultural factors, and legal framework).