Andrea Leadsom vows to review anonymity for MP cheats over 'step backwards for transparency'

Christopher Hope
The Houses of Parliament - Getty Images Europe

Ministers have vowed to review a controversial decision to grant anonymity to MPs who are investigated for breaches of House of Commons rules.

MPs sparked outrage on Thursday when they voted by a majority of more than three to one to stop naming MPs who are being investigated by the Parliamentary Standards watchdog.

The Daily Telegraph can disclose the blanket anonymity was bitterly opposed by both Kathryn Stone, the standards watchdog, and the committee of MPs which oversees its work chaired by Labour MP Sir Kevin Barron who both wanted to name MPs who were not accused of sexual harassment or bullying.

MPs change the rules in 2010 in the wake of the MPs’ expenses scandal to name any MP who was placed under investigation by the standards watchdog.

These MPs were listed on a page on the commissioner’s website under a section titled “current inquiries”.

However the section was immediately deleted on Thursday when MPs voted not to name any MPs who are placed under investigation in a move which was dubbed "a step backwards for transparency". 

The rule change was intended to protect the anonymity of members of staff who raised concerns about bullying , but was worded so that it included all complaints against MPs.

Overnight the House of Commons authorities deleted the list of MPs subject to “current inquiries” from Parliament’s website.

Andrea Leadsom Credit: Fiona Hanson/Fiona Hanson

Andrea Leadsom MP, the Leader of the House of Commons, told MPs on Thursday she had to make the ban wide ranging to give the new plans “a clear run” and to provide “confidentiality and consistency”.

However said she would consider disclosing names of MPs at a review accused of misdemeanours not covered by the new independence complaints and grievance policy (IGCP) in six months time.

She said: “I have asked that we temporarily suspend naming people when opening investigations for the purpose of giving ourselves a clear run at this, even if we re-implement the … ability to name non-IGCP candidates after six months.”

Ms Leadsom also disclosed that she Kathryn Stone, the Parliamentary standards commissioner who only took over her role in January, had objected to the plans.

She disclosed that it “took me considerable time and effort” to persuade Kathryn Stone “not to name people when opening investigations” into bullying and non-bullying allegations.

Ms Stone’s office declined to comment. However a Parliamentary report on the proposals published this month disclosed that “the current Committee on Standards and the Commissioner for Standards do not support any change to the reporting of complaints in non-Behaviour Code cases.

“There is room for legitimate differences of opinion about where the balance between the competing interests identified in 2010 should lie.”