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Committee on Standards releases a report on the conduct of Daniel Kawczynski MP

This report arises from an investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards into Mr Kawczynski’s conduct, following a complaint from the Chair of the Independent Expert Panel (IEP).

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The Committee on Standards’ report briefly summarises the Commissioner’s findings before setting out the Committee’s own conclusions.

This is the first occasion on which an allegation of non-compliance with an Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) sanction has been referred to the Committee. The original allegations of bullying and harassment made against Mr Kawczynski have been determined by the IEP and are not a matter for the Committee. This report focuses solely on the issue of whether Mr Kawczynski complied with the sanction imposed by the IEP and what the appropriate sanction should be if there was such a breach of the Code.

The Committee’s report is careful not to identify the original complainants against Mr Kawczynski, in line with the confidentiality requirements of the ICGS. Because of those requirements, and additionally because much of the material put before the Committee related to sensitive issues relating to Mr Kawczynski’s health, the Committee in this report follows the IEP’s policy of not publishing evidence in the case, including the Commissioner’s memorandum, other than that directly cited in the report (or in the IEP’s original report).

The Commissioner’s findings

In a report published on 14 June 2021, the IEP found that Mr Kawczynski had acted in breach of Parliament’s bullying and harassment policy. The complainants were House of Commons staff. The IEP recommended that Mr Kawczynski apologise on the floor of the House for his conduct, which he did later on the day of publication of the report.However, before making his apology, Mr Kawczynski gave an interview on BBC Radio Shropshire and spoke to a journalist at the Daily Mirror, which led to an article appearing online. The comments he made in the interview, and those attributed to him in the article, led the Chair of the IEP to make a formal complaint to the Commissioner that Mr Kawczynski appeared to have breached the ICGS confidentiality requirements, by identifying the complainants, and had failed to comply with the recommended sanction which required an “unequivocal” apology.

In considering possible breaches of the confidentiality requirements of parliament’s bullying and harassment investigation processes, the Commissioner found there was no evidence that Mr Kawczynski had provided copies of the report to media before official publication. However, the Commissioner also considered whether Mr Kawczynski had disclosed confidential details about the complainants who initiated the ICGS investigation. She noted that in the radio interview both the name of the select committee in question and the role of the two complainants had been identified. Mr Kawczynski had begun the interview by saying “I was on the [redacted: select committee identified]”, and had used the job titles of the complainants nine times during the interview.

The Commissioner found that on the balance of probabilities, Mr Kawczynski provided information about the job titles of the complainants to Radio Shropshire during a conversation before publication of the report, and that he told the journalist he felt bullied by the system, as reported in a Radio Shropshire tweet at 9.42 am. The Commissioner also found that Mr Kawczynski disclosed identifying information about the complainants during his radio interview.

The Commissioner also considered whether Mr Kawczynski breached paragraph 17 and 21 of the Code of Conduct by making statements which were an attempt to undermine the House's ICGS system. The Commissioner found that in a number of statements to press, Mr Kawczynski misrepresented “finely balanced judgements” in the original case. Mr Kawczynski also told the radio interviewer “I have no alternative but to apologise because if I don't apologise then I risk the option of being sanctioned further".

In summary, the Commissioner’s findings were that Mr Kawczynski:

  • Failed to comply with the requirements of confidentiality established by the IEP in its guidance and in specific instructions given to him.
  • His actions will have a detrimental affect not only on those who may be considering making a complaint [under the ICGS] but also those who have been through the system or are currently going through it.
  • He has undermined the ICGS through the numerous statements he made to the media on the 14 June 2021.
  • In undermining his apology Mr Kawczynski has in effect failed to comply with the sanction imposed by the IEP.
  • His actions have caused significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons as a whole.

She therefore concluded that Mr Kawczynski's actions caused significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons as a whole, and consequently were in breach of Paragraph 17 of the Code.

The Committee’s consideration of the case

Following receipt of a memorandum from the Commissioner on 3 December 2021, the Committee offered Mr Kawczynski a full opportunity to comment and make representations on the Commissioner's findings. Mr Kawczynski supplied written evidence to the Committee, and gave oral evidence in private on 14 December. He subsequently submitted a further nine items of written evidence. In addition, the Committee sought information from the IEP on one aspect of its procedures.

Mr Kawczynski did not challenge the Commissioner's findings, His evidence to the Committee was therefore in effect a plea in mitigation. Extracts from his evidence are available in the full report. Mr Kawczynski spoke to the Committee about his experience of childhood trauma and more recent sources of emotional stress. He said that the process of the ICGS and standards complaint had "been the most painful experience of my life".

During oral evidence, Mr Kawczynski said he was "completely thrown off guard and discombobulated" by discovering that information about the IEP's conclusions in the case was circulating on the internet in advance of the IEP report's publication. He also laid heavy emphasis on what he called "the psychological turmoil that was going through my mind", and explained that anticipating making an apology on the floor of the House had been traumatic for him, though he noted it ultimately helped him move forward.

Mr Kawczynski repeatedly said he had been on a “journey” towards better self-knowledge and an understanding of why his conduct had fallen short. He also expressed a willingness to assist others in a similar position. Mr Kawczynski also informed the Committee of further steps he has taken to address the roots of his misconduct and to assist others, including working as a volunteer for Shropshire Mental Health Services.

Mr Kawczynski concluded his oral evidence to the Committee by reiterating his apology. Following a request he also supplied additional evidence including reports corroborating his comments about his mental during the events in question. These included a psychological assessment and letters from a counsellor, which the Committee have taken into account in reaching conclusions.

The Committee’s conclusions and recommended sanctions

The Committee concurs with the Commissioner’s findings and concludes that Mr Kawczynski breached ICGS confidentiality requirements and breached paragraph 17 of the Code by failing to comply unequivocally with the sanction imposed by the IEP.

The IEP required him to apologise 'unequivocally', and although he says he was sincere by the time he made the apology to the House, he had that morning effectively undermined the sincerity of that apology by broadcasting the fact that he was making it because he was required to do so and he disagreed with the way the case had been conducted. Mr Kawczynski also broke confidentiality requirements by speaking to Radio Shropshire about the content of the report before it was published and identifying complainants' job descriptions on nine occasions in his radio interview.

In accordance with normal practice, before considering sanctions the Committee noted any aggravating or mitigating factors in the case. It concluded that the following was an aggravating factor:

  • Mr Kawczynski has been slow to develop insight into how his remarks to the media on 14 June 2021 would have impacted personally on the two original complainants. In his evidence Mr Kawczynski's repeatedly referred to "the complainant" rather than acknowledge there were two complainants - and others who did not pursue a formal complaint. This raises concern that he has still not fully grasped all the essentials of this matter. The Committee notes that even in his most recent comments, Mr Kawczynski has focussed very much on his own personal "journey" rather than on the damage he may have caused to others. The Committee feels that Mr Kawczynski has an intellectual understanding that he has damaged the ICGS system, but is still struggling with a capacity for genuine empathy with others, and as a result still has a tendency, which he may not fully realise, to see himself rather than others as the "victim" in what has happened.

The Committee concluded that the following were mitigating factors:

  • Mr Kawczynski has co-operated fully with the Commissioner's investigation and with the Committee’s inquiry.
  • Mr Kawczynski has apologised unreservedly for his conduct on 14 June 2021.
  • It is not possible to establish exactly what happened by way of a leak of sensitive information from an unknown source prior to Mr Kawczynski's contacts, but he has supplied us with evidence of one item that appeared on the internet before his first conversation with the media that morning and a second that appeared later that same morning. We accept that this may have played a part in "triggering" his comments.
  • We are persuaded that Mr Kawczynski has been making a sincere attempt to arrive at a better understanding of the roots of his poor behaviour and is genuinely committed to this personal "journey" and to assisting others who may find themselves in the same situation as himself.

Mr Kawczynski’s actions caused significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons as a whole. His actions also undermined the ICGS and risked causing further harm to the complainants in his original case.

The Committee comments that normally such conduct would merit suspension from the service of the House for a substantial period. It is mindful also that one of the purposes of the ICGS is to change the culture of the House of Commons, but in recommending an appropriate sanction, it had particular regard to the mitigating circumstances adduced by Mr Kawczynski. The Committee acknowledged that he has committed to undertake further work on his attitude and behaviour.

On that basis, the Committee recommends that Mr Kawczynski be suspended from the service of the House for one sitting day (which should not be a Friday).

The Committee makes clear that any future breach of any requirement in an ICGS case, by any Member, that comes to the Committee, will normally be likely to lead to a recommendation of a significant period of suspension.

The Committee also recommends that Mr Kawczynski should make a further apology to the House by way of a personal statement, the terms of which should be agreed in advance by Mr Speaker and the Chair of the Committee. It recommends that the apology must contain the following specific elements:

  • a personal apology to the original complainants (without identifying them), the Commissioner, and the Chair of the IEP for his conduct, together with an undertaking to send written apologies to those individuals
  • recognition that his conduct would, taken by itself, have merited suspension from the service of the House for a longer period
  • acknowledgement of how his conduct will have impacted the complainants, and damaged the House's bullying and harassment policy and therefore also its wider reputation
  • a commitment to an improved attitude and behaviour and an invitation to other Members to learn from his experience.

Further information

 

Channel website: http://www.parliament.uk/

Original article link: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/290/committee-on-standards/news/160250/committee-on-standards-releases-a-report-on-the-conduct-of-daniel-kawczynski-mp/

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