How to make a complaint
Who you can complain about
The Commissioner for Standards in Public Life can consider complaints about:
- ministers, parliamentary secretaries (junior ministers) and parliamentary assistants;
- other members of Parliament; and
- persons of trust – that is to say persons who are engaged in the private secretariat of a minister or parliamentary secretary, and who serve in an advisory, consultative or executive capacity.
Parliamentary assistants are members of Parliament who provide support to ministers and parliamentary secretaries. A number of MPs served in this role from 2010 to 2013 but no parliamentary assistants were appointed subsequently.
The term “person of trust” is commonly understood to mean political appointees. But the term is defined more narrowly in the Standards in Public Life Act. Further information about persons of trust, both in terms of the generally accepted meaning and as defined in the Act, is available in this guidance note.
What sort of conduct you can complain about
The Standards Commissioner can consider complaints that ministers, parliamentary secretaries, parliamentary assistants or members of Parliament have:
- broken the law;
- broken any ethical or other duty set out by law, including the ministerial code of ethics or the code of ethics for MPs, both of which are found in the Standards in Public Life Act; or
- exercised discretionary powers in a way that constitutes an abuse of power.
The Commissioner can consider complaints that persons of trust have broken the code of ethics set out in the Public Administration Act.
Please bear the following points in mind if you are thinking about submitting a complaint.
The Commissioner cannot consider complaints about actions that took place before the Standards in Public Life Act came into force, that is 30 October 2018.
In addition, you should make your complaint within thirty working days from when you get to know about the actions that gave rise to it and within a year from when the actions occurred. The Act does not allow the Commissioner to consider complaints that are submitted after any one of these timeframes expires.
The Standards Commissioner cannot consider a complaint if –
- proceedings about the same case are pending before a court or a tribunal established by law;
- the case is subject to an inquest by the Court of Magistrates; or
- the case is already being investigated by the police.
Decision not to investigate
The Commissioner has the right not to investigate a complaint if he thinks that –
- an investigation is not warranted;
- the complaint is trivial, frivolous or vexatious;
- the complaint has not been made in good faith.
In such cases the Commissioner will reply saying why he has decided not to investigate your complaint.
How to submit your complaint
You can submit your complaint by letter or email or by using the contact us form in this website.
Please identify yourself clearly in your complaint, because the law does not allow the Commissioner to consider anonymous complaints. If you do not want your identity to be disclosed to the person who is the subject of your complaint, please make this clear to the Commissioner.
Please also clearly identify the person or persons who are the subject of your complaint. Give as much information as you can about what you think they have done wrong.
In exceptional cases a complaint can be made orally, although the law requires an oral complaint to be put in writing within ten days. If you wish to submit an oral complaint, please call the Office of the Commissioner to make an appointment with the Commissioner or a member of his staff.
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