MSs Behaving Badly: Record level of complaints as Members are accused of weaponising standards procedure

(Title Image: Elliot Brown via Flickr)

In his annual report (pdf), the Acting Standards Commissioner, Douglas Bain TD, has suggested some MSs were using the official complaints system as a weapon to attack other MSs and parties.

A record 106 new complaints were received during 2019-20 – a 147% increase on the previous year – of which 84 were rejected as inadmissible.

58 complaints related to conduct on social media. However, the Acting Commissioner rejected issuing new guidance to members so as to prevent lower standards of behaviour being accepted on social media when compared to other forms of media.

Just over three-quarters of complaints were made by members of the public, with the remainder coming from within the Senedd itself – 13.2% from Members and 10.4% from the Clerk of the Senedd. One unnamed MS (by virtue of the quoted figures of complaints by party, likely to be an Independent) has reportedly made seven complaints about other members – only one of which was upheld – and the Acting Commissioner had reason to believe that some complaints from the public were instigated by a Member.

“One regrettable practice that became apparent during the year was the willingness of a small number of Members to use the complaints process as a political weapon. As noted above, one Member was responsible for more than half of all complaints made by Members. It was also clear that on other occasions a small number of Members had used a member of the public to make a complaint on their behalf.”
– Acting Standards Commissioner, Douglas Bain TD

Seven complaints are set to be carried forward into 2020-21. The process of appointing a new Standards Commissioner is currently underway following the resignation of the previous Commissioner, Sir Roderick Evans QC, in November 2019.

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