Dissolution Guidance – updated 2019

Updated 8 November 2019.

With the prospect of a General Election in sight, the House Authorities have published Dissolution Guidance for

Please also see the Summary of changes to dissolution guidance for 2019 which gives updates on support services, Data Protection and GDPR, IPSA, Parliamentary Digital Service, Library Services, Security and the nursery.

See also the Dissolution guidance: FAQs for Members

 

IPSA

IPSA’s General Election Guidance

IPSA Campaign Activities Guidance

Evidence Guidance

 

HoC Library Services

You will no longer have access to the services of the House of Commons Library.  If you have any subscriptions via the House of Commons Library, they will be suspended for the duration of dissolution.  This includes RightsNet and and any newspapers and databases.

We will update this page as we receive further information.

Complaints about an MP

There are two organisations which deal with complaints about Members of Parliament:

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards will investigate allegations that an MP has broken the Code of Conduct and the rules associated with it. These include for example rules about: „

The Commissioner will not investigate complaints about:

  • policy matters; „
  • an MP’s views or opinions; „
  • an MP’s handling of or decision about constituency cases and correspondence at any stage; (A local MP will generally do as much as they can to help a constituent, but (s)he is not obliged to take up every matter that is brought to their attention);
  • the conduct of an MP’s wider public life, unless the MP’s conduct has caused serious damage to the reputation of the House of Commons as a whole or of MPs more generally.

Further information can be found in the advice leaflet from the PCS.

Compliance Officer for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority

http://www.parliamentarycompliance.org.uk/

The post of Compliance Officer for IPSA was established by the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009, as amended by the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010.

The Compliance Officer’s remit is defined in statute and is to:

  • conduct an investigation if he has reason to believe that an MP may have been paid an amount under the MPs’ Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses (the Scheme) that should not have been allowed; and
  • at the request of an MP, review a determination by IPSA to refuse reimbursement for an expense claim, in whole or in part.

As the Compliance Officer’s role is confined to matters pertaining to the Scheme, he has no power to investigate complaints that pre-date the creation of IPSA in May 2010.  Complaints regarding expense claims prior to May 2010 are usually handled by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

Unite Parliamentary Branch

Working for an MP is an exciting and rewarding job, but at some point you may face exactly the same difficulties as you would in any other workplace – a dispute over your job description, a grievance against your employer or simply the need to put a collective case for improvements in working conditions.

The Unite Parliamentary Staff Branch represents staff of MPs and MEPs, both in Parliament and in the constituency, and has many trained shop stewards who will be more than willing to help, however small your problem may seem.  Our members’ well-being in the workplace is of the utmost importance to the branch.

MPs’ staff find themselves in a difficult position in terms of claiming their basic working rights.  Whilst, legally, our MP is usually considered our employer, it is IPSA and the House Authorities who are our de facto employers, setting our pay levels, contractual terms and conditions, and working environment.  Staff pay and employment conditions suffered a significant blow when the IPSA MPs’ Expenses Scheme was introduced in 2010.  Now, more than ever, it is important for MPs’ staff to speak with one voice on all of these issues, and the union is fighting to improve the terms for MPs’ staff under IPSA.  The more staff who join, the stronger a case they can put for improvements in pay and conditions.

Unite has been representing the staff of Members of Parliament for over 25 years.

The Unite Parliamentary Staff Branch is part of the largest trade union in the UK, Unite, and is the only union recognised as representing MPs’ staff.  It is the only union recognised by the Parliamentary Labour Party and is regularly consulted by the Houses of Parliament authorities on issues affecting staff.  We hope that if you have not already done so, you will join.

Where we fit in…

The Unite Parliamentary Staff Branch is based in Region 1 of the Union (London and the South East) but includes staff from all over England, Scotland and Wales.  It has members who work for MPs and MEPs of all the major political parties and most of the smaller ones.

Email etiquette

Isn’t it annoying when people send you e-mails that don’t contain any punctuation?  Or when you are sent an e-mail which has 300 recipients, and you scroll down through all the names to find a one-line message at the bottom?  Honestly, some people should use a bit of Netiquette!

What is Netiquette? 

Internet Etiquette, or ‘Netiquette’ is the unofficial ‘code of conduct’ for Internet users; a guide to avoiding inadvertently offending those with whom you communicate by e-mail and other electronic means such as chat rooms, instant messengers and message boards.

Blind Copying

Blind copying, or ‘BCC’ is a useful way of hiding the names of the recipients of an e-mail.  There are three main reasons for using the ‘BCC field’:

  1. to keep e-mail addresses private (so that the recipients aren’t able to copy the e-mail addresses of everyone else on the list)
  2. to prevent long lists of names appearing when printing or forwarding messages – some recipients get so irritated by long recipient lists, that they just delete the message without reading it.
  3. To prevent accidental clicking ‘Reply to All’ occurring.

If you can’t see the BCC field when you open up a new message in Outlook, simply click VIEW > BCC field and it will appear.  It will then show up on all new messages, unless you choose to hide it again.

Shouting

When people type messages which are all in capital letters, e.g. with the Caps Lock on, it is referred to as ‘shouting’ and is considered very rude indeed.

Use Appropriate Language

Just as in face-to-face communication, adjust your language according to your audience.  Avoid swearing or using abusive language, don’t write anything which could be construed as sexist, racist, homophobic or comments which could incite arguments (flaming)

Punctuation

Rules of punctuation still exist in e-mails.  When it comes to punctuation, you should treat an e-mail in the same manner as a formal written letter.  Lack of punctuation not only makes a message very difficult to read, but also makes the writer look very unprofessional and, on occasion, a bit of an idiot.

Emoticons

An emoticon is a graphical representation of an emotion.  The most common of these is a ‘smiley’  –   :o)   When looked at sideways, it looks like a smiley face.  These should not be used in formal communication, but are sometimes useful in very informal chat situations where a message you mean as a joke may be misunderstood, or otherwise be deemed rather impolite.  There are many different emoticons and many  lists of them can be found on the Internet, simply by searching on the word “emoticons”.

Post in Haste, Repent at Leisure

If you receive an e-mail which annoys or upsets you, don’t respond to it immediately.  Print it out and keep it for a while.  With e-mail, it’s too easy to whip off a tart response in seconds, hit the ‘send’ button and…..”damn, I got it wrong, I didn’t mean that”.  Too late.  It’s gone, and it’s almost certain you can’t get it back.  Always think before you reply.

Flaming

Flaming is where people make personal (written) attacks, especially in chat rooms, rather than sticking to the topic of conversation.  Flaming should be avoided at all costs, because it spoils the conversation for other members of the group.  Sometimes, flaming occurs because of a misunderstanding, for example when someone has been SHOUTING in their messages.

Beware of ‘Reply All’

Beware of defaulting to use the ‘reply all’ button all the time. Only use ‘reply all’ if your reply is important to all the recipients. Also, using it too often can lead to automatically replying all with an email not intended for all recipients – very embarrassing and a sticky situation to have to escape from.

Avoid Embarrassing Emails

It’s easy to accidentally hit ‘send’ when a message was not yet ready to go. This can be quite embarrassing, especially if you’d intended to change the text later before sending the mail. Since it’s difficult to disable the ‘send’ button, you should make sure the message does no harm even if you hit that button accidentally.

Either:

  • leave the address field empty, or
  • address the message to yourself while you are still composing it.

Only enter the final recipient when you are absolutely ready to send the mail.

Safety Online

Spam

Spam is, quite simply, unsolicited junk mail.  The name ‘spam’ comes from a Monty Python sketch where, on the menu in a cafe, everything comes with spam.

Some people are lucky enough not to get any spam at all, others may get hundreds of unwanted messages a day. Users of the Parliamentary Network benefit from a spam filter, which does catch most of the rubbish before it gets to your inbox.

Spam does not necessarily have to come from unknown sources, a lot of spam comes from friends in the form of jokes and ‘sillies’, which they send to all of their friends, who in turn send it to all of their friends. Before you know it, your e-mail is full of the stuff and you’ve got no work done. If a friend starts sending you unwanted e-mails, ask them to stop.

However, you must never click on an ‘unsubscribe’ link (or any other links) in messages from unknown sources, as you are just confirming to the spammer that you exist, and you’ll probably end up on even more junk mailing lists.

If you receive spam of a racist or obscene nature, especially if it involves children, you can report it (anonymously, if you prefer) to the Internet Watch Foundation (www.iwf.org.uk) who will investigate and take appropriate action.

Personal Information

There is a famous cartoon from the New York Times, showing two dogs at a computer, and one says “On the Internet, no-one knows you’re a dog”.  We can’t reproduce the picture here, for copyright reasons, but you can find it easily enough by searching on the Internet.  Although it’s funny, it’s also a very serious warning.

People you may chat with by e-mail or in chat rooms may not always be who they seem.  Anyone can be nice in such an anonymous setting, but how would you like it if those people started knocking on your door, or phoning you?  Don’t ever give out personal details such as phone numbers, e-mail addresses, or information about your family, school or workplace.  There have been many cases of personal details being abused, causing great distress to the victims.

Office Email Policy

You may find it useful to establish an office email policy, which can incorporate the above and any other rules for using email you think appropriate for your office and staff (seek colleagues’ opinions first of course). All employees should sign off on having received the information once it is finalised.

You might consider:

  • how restrictive you should be on the use of email for personal reasons at work. Your policy may like to emphasise that the use of the domain name (@parliament.uk) should be reserved for work-related emails and emails to colleagues only.
  • whether you will require all employees to have an email signature.
  • whether to establish a policy for deleting messages.
  • when to use email and when to use post – is your MP happy for you to contact constituents via email if they have emailed you, or should a letter always be sent?
  • When sending emails outside of the Parliamentary Network, a disclaimer is added automatically, which reads:

“UK Parliament Disclaimer: This e-mail is confidential to the intended recipient. If you have received it in error, please notify the sender and delete it from your system. Any unauthorised use, disclosure, or copying is not permitted. This e-mail has been checked for viruses, but no liability is accepted for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this e-mail. This e-mail address is not secure, is not encrypted and should not be used for sensitive data.”

  • Do not allow the employee to pass off personal views as representing those of the party or Parliament – you should add your own disclaimer, along the lines of:

“Views expressed in personal emails do not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of the Labour Party/Conservative Party/Liberal Democrats.”

Further reading : The Core Rules of Netiquette, by Virginia Shea