Section 2.3 - Rules and Guidance on the Use of Assembly Resources
This document relates to paragraph 10 of the Code of Conduct.
1. This document, which applies from 6 May 2016, sets out for Assembly Members rules and guidance relating to the use of Assembly Resources.
2. The information has been approved by the Chief Executive and Clerk of the National Assembly in her capacity as Principal Accounting Officer for the Assembly Commission.
3. The word 'must' in this document denotes a rule. Any other wording in this document is guidance.
4. 'Assembly Resources' means any support provided to Assembly Members by the Assembly Commission. That support may be in the form of financial resources, staff resources or any other form of support provided by the Assembly Commission.
5. This document identifies the different sets of rules on the use of Assembly Resources by which Members must abide. In particular, Members are advised to refer to:
6. Members must ensure that they understand and comply with this document. Members who are in doubt as to whether they may use Assembly Resources for a particular purpose must first obtain written confirmation from the Head of Members' Business Support (MBS) that use of Assembly Resources for the purpose in question is permitted.
Principles of Support
7. The Determination sets out a number of general principles of conduct that underpin the rules by which allowances may be claimed. These principles apply equally to the use of all Assembly Resources provided to Assembly Members. Members are strongly encouraged to familiarise themselves with them and to act on them accordingly. Similarly, the Code of Conduct for Assembly Members sets out general standards of conduct to which Members must have regard when using Assembly Resources.
8. Members have personal responsibility for all expenses incurred and resources used in their name. They should, therefore, only delegate work to staff having ensured that staff have a clear understanding of the limits of the authority given to them.
9. Complaints of misuse of Assembly Resources may be referred to the Standards Commissioner.
10. Other rules and guidance produced by the Assembly Commission from time to time will also be subject to the principles of support detailed above.
11. Further information is available to Members regarding conduct, behaviour and the recording of interests. The documents listed below support and complement this document as to the use of Assembly Resources:
Register of Members Interests
Guidance on the recording of employment of family members
Rules on the operation of Cross Party Groups
Guidance on lobbying and access to Members
AMSS Code of Conduct
National Assembly for Wales ICT Security and Usage Rules
Official Languages Scheme
Guidance on booking rooms
The Policy Research and Communications Fund
Other resources are available to Assembly Members and their staff, and can be obtained by contacting Members’ Business Support.
Use of Resources for Assembly business
12. Assembly Members must ensure that they use Assembly Resources for the purpose of their activities as Assembly Members only and not for any of the purposes listed below, which are prohibited:
personal, business or commercial communications;
party political activity of any kind, for example, party-political fund-raising, recruitment of party members and the organisation and publicising of party political meetings; and
campaigning for the election or re-election of particular candidates for any public office (including the Member in question).
Stationery, Printing, Copying and Postal Resources
13. Stationery, printing, copying and postal resources provided by the Assembly Commission ("Central Resources") must not be used for the following purposes:
newsletters and annual reports;
greetings cards and similar communications; or
circulars (communications sent in identical, or near identical, form to numerous addresses).
14. However, Central Resources may be used for Circulars that are:
sent in response to requests for communications from recipients of Circulars;
sent to signatories of a petition addressed to the Member (but this exception does not apply if the Member is a petitioner); and
surgery notices [A surgery notice is a document whose sole purpose is to inform constituents of the place, date and time of Members' surgeries or to tell the public about how to find out this information. The fact that a document of another description (e.g. a newsletter) also contains such information does not mean that the document constitutes a Surgery Notice].
15. Members are able to use their Office Costs Allowance to cover the cost of stationery, printing, copying and postage for items for which Central Resources may not be used (as listed in paragraph 13), but which are for their activities as Assembly Members. Surgery Notices may also be advertised and the costs met from the Office Costs Allowance.
16. Members drawing on the use of Assembly Resources for publications, must comply with the Assembly Commission's Official Languages Scheme.
Assembly Member Websites and Social Media
17. Assembly Members' websites, which have been established or maintained using Assembly Resources, may only be used for activities related to the role of an Assembly Member. Care will be needed to avoid giving the impression that the content of a Member or a group's website, supported by Assembly Resources, is intended to support the election of a particular candidate (or candidates) of a political party. Information on the content of communications is provided in paragraphs 31 -38.
18. The following will not, in themselves, be regarded as breaching the prohibition on party political content:
The website identifying the Member as being a member of a political party or the website displaying the logo of that Member's party.
Links on the website to one or more (separate) websites that carry party political content. The website must make clear that the links lead to websites that are not hosted by the Assembly Member and not funded from Assembly Resources.
19. Members are responsible for ensuring that any future changes to social media platforms do not result in these rules being breached.
20. When using social media, Members are reminded that although they may not be drawing on Assembly Resources, they are still bound by the Code of Conduct for Assembly Members and the ICT Security and Usage Rules. Similarly, support staff are bound by the AMSS Code of Conduct and the ICT Security and Usage Rules.
Booking of rooms on the Assembly estate
21. Assembly Members may book meeting rooms for their activities as Members only. Meeting rooms must not be booked for party political purposes i.e. a room must not be booked primarily or substantially for the purpose of promoting the work of any political party.
22. Responsibility and accountability for the use of meeting rooms rests with the Assembly Member who has made the booking (or on whose behalf the booking was made). In addition, that Assembly Member (or another Member) must attend the meeting.
23. Information on the booking of rooms involving external visitors may be accessed here: Guidance on booking rooms [Internal document].
Sponsoring events on the Assembly estate
24. Members sponsoring events on the Assembly estate must abide by the rules and responsibilities that fall to them as stated in the Events policy and the accompanying terms and conditions.
Use of the Assembly estate for filming
25. Media operations, such as filming or recording, in any part of the Assembly estate must never disrupt the activity in that area or impact on visitor access.
26. The prior consent of the Presiding Officer, requested via the Media Office, must be obtained in order to carry out filming, photography or recording in the Siambr, committee rooms, public galleries or other restricted access areas.
27. For party political content, media operations are allowed in public areas in the Senedd and in Members' offices. However, media operations for these purposes, are not allowed in restricted areas, such as the Siambr or committee rooms. Overt campaigning for votes is not allowed anywhere on the Assembly estate.
28. During an Assembly election period, when the Assembly has been dissolved, no media operations are allowed on the Assembly's estate by, or for the benefit of, a political party or individual candidate.
29. Further advice or guidance can be given by the Media Office [0300 200 6252].
Use of Assembly Resources during Election Periods
30. Members must abide by guidance that will be produced around times of elections. This includes guidance on dissolution during Assembly elections and guidance for European, UK or local elections.
Content of communications
31. The following section on the content of communications is drawn from the Rules and Guidance on the Policy Research and Communications Fund, as set out by the Remuneration Board.
32. Members may use Assembly Resources to engage with their constituents, and, in particular:
a. communicate their work to the public;
b. raise awareness of their work;
c. improve transparency and accountability; and
d. encourage engagement with constituents.
33. Members must not use Assembly Resources for the purposes of overt party political communications (such as, the use of Assembly Resources to campaign for votes for a political party).
34. Members must exercise judgement in each case to ensure that resources are used appropriately. The test that Members must apply is, firstly, that Assembly Resources are being used in respect of the purposes shown in paragraph 32 above; and, secondly, that it is not done in an overtly party political way.
35. Members must seek advice in advance from MBS where there is any doubt about whether the proposed communications would be an acceptable use of Assembly Resources. MBS will advise Members accordingly.
Illustrative examples of resources that might be used in communicating with constituents (this list is not exhaustive)
36. The following are examples of how resources might be used to promote local communication and engagement:
to develop resources that make connections between the Assembly's responsibilities and powers, local issues and the Member's activity;
to assist with the development of a professionally produced newsletter;
to produce regular newsletters;
to produce constituent surveys or conduct listening groups with constituents in order to take soundings on issues of local importance;
to develop resources that build connections between the Assembly and other democratic institutions in the locality e.g. making connections and raising awareness of differences between the work of local councillors, local MPs, Members and MEPs;
to produce public information videos about an individual Member's work – what I do, how to get in touch, how I can help, where to find me, what I'm working on, etc.;
to develop professional websites integrated with social media platforms; and
to develop blogs.
Examples of typical content when using Assembly resources for communicating with constituents (this list is not exhaustive)
37. The following is a list of content that would be considered appropriate when engaging with constituents using Assembly resources:
statements or information about the Member's work as a Member;
articles promoting constituency activity;
information highlighting government schemes that have specific benefits to the constituency/constituents, including contact points e.g. job centres;
information about changes to benefits or otherwise that are directly related to their constituents and how they can obtain help and further information;
statements about Wales or UK government activity, but only where the Member directly links them to their constituency or region or can demonstrate that constituents would have a particular interest in, or need to know about, that activity;
items reporting what Members have said or done in the Assembly;
items raising awareness of issues and encouraging constituents to participate in consultations/surveys;
small, discreet logos, along with the logo of the National Assembly.
38. Content that would not be considered appropriate and that must be avoided:
party political statements/overtly campaigning for votes;
promoting party activity – e.g. information about party meetings;
large, imposing party logos;
general statements about government activity across Wales (or the UK) without reference to the Member's constituency or region.