Section 2.3 - Rules and Guidance on the Use of Senedd Resources

Published 08/01/2021   |   Last Updated 15/02/2021   |   Reading Time minutes

This document relates to paragraph 10 of the Code of Conduct.

  • Last updated: 15 February 2021
  • Owner: Senedd Commission Accounting Officer
  • Contact: Members' Engagement Team

 

Status of the Rules and Guidance

1.   These Rules are issued under the authority of the Code of Conduct for Senedd Members, paragraph 10, by the Chief Executive and Clerk of the Senedd in their capacity as the principal accounting officer of the Senedd Commission under section 138 of the Government of Wales Act 2006.

2.   As principal accounting officer the Chief Executive and Clerk is accountable for the regularity and propriety of the management of the public money provided to the Senedd Commission and the stewardship of its assets, in accordance with the responsibilities specified from time to time by the Treasury.

3.   These Rules apply whenever a Member makes use of Commission resources (as defined in these Rules). Should the Chief Executive and Clerk have reasonable grounds for suspecting a failure to comply with these Rules then the Clerk is under a duty under section 9 of the National Assembly for Wales Commissioner for Standards Measure 2009, to refer those grounds to the Senedd Commissioner for Standards for investigation.

4.   The Guidance set out after each Rule does not form part of the Rules but is intended to assist Members and Commission officials in following and applying the Rules and the Senedd Commissioner for Standards may have regard to the Guidance when a matter is referred for investigation.

5.   Members should seek advice in advance from staff of the Senedd Commission where there is any doubt about whether a proposed activity is a permitted use of Commission resources.

6.   Members should also bear in mind the provisions of Rule 16 relating to special provision that may be applied during election periods in addition to provisions in other Rules relating to election periods.

 

Interpretation

7.   In these Rules and in the Guidance the following expressions are to be interpreted as follows:


"Commission resources" – means any resource whether financial or otherwise and includes resources provided to Members under the Determination;


"Election period" – means any period when (i) the Senedd is dissolved, (ii) the UK Parliament is dissolved (iii) a referendum period as defined by section 102 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (iv) a notice of election has been issued for the election of councillors for a local government area (v) a notice of election has been issued for the election of a Police and Crime Commissioner or (vi) a by-election has been called by the giving of the requisite notice for a seat in the Senedd, the UK Parliament or as a councillor

"The Determination" – means the Determination of Members' Pay and Allowances issued by the Independent Remuneration Board of the Senedd;

"Member's duties" – means activity in relation to business in the Senedd and constituency or regional business undertaken by a Member;

"Media operations" – means broadcasting, filming or recording by a Member (or any person or organisation on their behalf) carried out on any part of the Senedd estate;

"Party political" – means anything that could be perceived by a fair minded and impartial observer as party political, but does not include the discussion and deliberations by Members and their staff related to the political response to business before the Senedd including the business of the political groups within the Senedd, or the use of logos or branding in accordance with these Rules.

 

The Rules and Guidance

Rule 1 – Personal accountability

Members are personally accountable for the use of Commission resources made available to them.

Guidance

Members are personally responsible for all the expenses they incur or the resources used in their name. Members may delegate the organisation and carrying out of activities to others, such as members of their staff, but Members should bear in mind that when they put in place such arrangements they remain personally accountable for the use of Commission resources provided to them.

 

Rule 2 – Value for money, sustainability and reputational obligations

In making use of Commission resources Members must act prudently and have regard to:

  1. the need to secure value for money in the expenditure of public funds;
  2. the Commission's obligations in discharging its function in relation to securing equality of opportunity for all people and the promotion of sustainable development; and
  3. the good name and reputation of the Senedd.

Guidance

Members must make use of the Commission resources made available to them prudently and within the limitations of the overall resources made available to Members.

This Rule extends to Members' expenditure on travel and attention is drawn to the "Principles for Commission expenditure on travel by Members" and the travel allowances set by the Determination.

 

Rule 3 – The employment of staff funded by Commission resources

Staff employed by Members must, during the time they are contracted to work which is  remunerated with Commission resources, only undertake work in connection with a Member's duties.

Guidance

This Rule applies to Members' staff remunerated with Commission resources.

The use of staff funded through Commission resources must be within the provisions of these Rules. Without prejudice to the generality of this Rule, the use of staff for any of the following activities would breach this Rule and so are prohibited:

(a)   Personal, business or commercial activities or communications;

(b)   Party political activity;

(c)   Other activities resulting in financial gain to the Member or any other person.

The application of this rule means that support staff employed by a Member must not be actively engaged in campaigning as part of their contracted hours of work. There is no Commission restriction on staff undertaking such activity outside their contracted working hours, while on annual leave or while on unpaid special leave. Any periods of unpaid special leave must be notified to Members' Business Support in advance in order that the appropriate financial adjustment may be made.

It is recognised that maintaining a strict separation between business that properly relates to Members duties and something that falls within the definition of "party political" can sometimes be difficult. While this Rule is intended to be strictly observed, therefore, an incidental reference to something party political during the otherwise proper conduct of a Member's duties is unlikely to amount to a breach of this Rule.

Members may, on occasion, also hold another elected political office (for example, they may also be a local councillor) at the same time as they hold office as a Member. Where this arises, Members should ensure that staff do not carry out work during their contracted hours on business which properly relates to such other elected office and for which resources may be provided by the body that the Member is also elected to serve on.

Similarly, where a member of a Member's staff holds elected political office on another body then the Member is responsible for ensuring that the member of staff does not undertake work related to that elected office during the working hours for which they are remunerated from Senedd resources.

 

Rule 4 – Items and facilities acquired with Commission resources or provided by the Commission

(1) Items and facilities acquired with Commission resources or provided by the Commission for the use of Members must only be used in connection with a Member's duties.

(2) Items acquired with Commission resources become and remain the property of the Commission and are to be returned promptly when requested.

(3) Items provided by the Commission for the use of Members must be used in accordance with the Commission's conditions relating to their use specified from time to time.

Guidance

This rule applies to items and services that Members acquire with Commission resources or are provided by the Commission for the use of Members (for example, ICT equipment and contracts with service providers).

Without prejudice to the generality of this Rule, the use of items or facilities for any of the following activities would breach this Rule and so are prohibited:

(a)   Personal, business or commercial activities or communications;

(b)   Party political activity;

(c)   Other activities resulting in financial gain to the Member or any other person.

Rule 4(3) covers, in particular, the ICT equipment is provided by the Commission subject to the ICT Security and Usage Rules (under review in preparation for the Sixth Senedd) and which allows limited incidental personal internet, email and telephone usage.

Members should be mindful that items acquired with Commission resources become and remain the property of the Commission and they and their staff should take good care of such items accordingly. Members are accountable, in particular, for returning items when they cease to hold office.

The Guidance to Rule 3 relating to the situation where a Member holds another elected political office, or a member of their staff holds an elected political office, also applies to the use of items and facilities covered by this Rule.

 

Rule 5 – Observance of financial procedures

Members must observe the financial procedures, and arrangements to counter fraud, in connection with the expenditure and use of Commission resources communicated to Members by the Commission from time to time.

Guidance

This Rule requires adherence to the arrangements and procedures specified by the Commission and/or the Determination (which is communicated to Members through the Commission, including by the Commission Members' intranet) to include (but without prejudice to the generality of this Rule) year-end guidance, financial loss details, anti-fraud measures, arrangements about the creation and retention of records (such as the purpose and detail of travel, staff working hours and receipts and invoices relating to purchases) and providing information and submitting claims promptly when requested to do so, details required for the Commission's accounting or audit purposes, or other purposes for which financial information can properly be required e.g. in connection with a standards investigation. 

 

Rule 6 – Data protection

Members must comply with applicable legislation relating to the protection of data and information when using Commission resources.

 

Rule 7 – Equal treatment of constituents in using Commission resources

Members must treat all constituents equally when engaging or corresponding with them using Commission resources.

In this Rule, "equally" means irrespective of the actual or suspected party political opinions or allegiance of constituents.

Guidance

Members must exercise care and judgement in the production of materials, in whatever format, to ensure that the content does not breach this Rule and Rules 8 to 14 below.

 

Rule 8 – Communication and engagement with constituents using Commission resources

Communication and engagement by Members with their constituents using Commission resources must:

  1. not be party political;
  2. not be of a nature that could be otherwise be perceived by a fair minded and impartial observer as campaigning for a particular result in an election or referendum;
  3. adhere to the Guidance on the application of this Rule to the use of party symbols, logos or other branding; and
  4. state clearly that it is funded by the Commission from public funds.

Guidance

Members are reminded that under Rule 1 they are personally accountable for the use of Commission Resources and thus for any communication or engagement activity carried out with Commission resources provided to them.

Should the Determination make provision from time to time for the provision for stationery (general office needs and personalised printed), and printing, copying, and postal resources for (1) surgery notices, (2) circulars sent either in response to requests for further information from recipients of circulars; or (3) circulars sent to signatories of a petition addressed to a Member, then such provision will be subject to this Rule.

Members attention is drawn to the definition of "party political". Members should also consult the Determination which makes provision for support for constituent engagement to promote their work as a Member.

The use of discreet party logos is allowed in permitted printed material for constituent engagement, including personalised stationery, but advertising, content or materials produced must not give the impression that they have been funded by a political party and not be used in such a way that they could be perceived by a fair minded and impartial observer as campaigning for a political party or individual.

 

Rule 9 – Official Languages Scheme

Communication and engagement activity using Commission resources must be in accordance with the Official Languages Scheme.

Guidance

The Scheme can be found at https://senedd.wales/Laid%20Documents/GEN-LD11101/GEN-LD11101-e.pdf 

 

Rule 10 – Members' websites

A Member's website must only be used in connection with a Member's duties if it is built or maintained using Commission resources and a Member will reimburse the Commission promptly upon being required to do so, in the event that a Member is found to have breached this Rule.

Guidance

The requirement that a website must only be used in connection with Member's duties excludes party political content. However the following content, which identifies the Member for the benefit of visitors to the website, will not be considered party political content under this Rule:

  1. Identification of a member's party allegiance;
  2. Displaying the logo or branding of the Member's party;
  3. Links on the website to one or more (separate) websites that carry party political content. The Member's website should make clear that the links lead to websites that are not hosted by the Member and are not funded from Commission resources.

 

Rule 11 – Social media activity

Members social media activity undertaken with Commission resources must be directly related to their Member's duties and must not be party political.

Guidance

Commission resources are not to be used to create, advertise or promote content that is party political. Promoting social media activity, for example the use of Facebook (including the "boosting" of Facebook posts) or Twitter Ads, is within this Rule only if the post is directly related to Member's duties and is not party political. Targeting of the promotional activity must be directed at the constituency or region the Member represents.

 

Rule 12 – Media operations

Media operations:

  1. must not disrupt other activities on the Senedd estate or impede visitor access;
  2. must not take place in the Siambr, committee rooms, public galleries, or other areas to which general public access is restricted unless approved in advance by the Llywydd; and
  3. if they have party political content can only take place in the publicly accessible areas of the Senedd estate or within a  Members' own or their party group's offices.
  4. may not take place anywhere on the Senedd estate during an election period.

Guidance

The definition of party political activity means that campaigning for votes is not allowed anywhere on the Senedd estate.

The consent of the Llywydd should be sought through the Media Office.

 

Rule 13 – Sponsoring of events

Members must not sponsor or organise events on the Senedd estate that involve:

  1. personal, business or commercial activities or communications;
  2. party political activity, including use of party logos or branding, or campaigning for a particular result in an election or referendum;
  3. fund-raising of any kind or for which any charge is made for persons attending;
  4. events, exhibitions or displays of material that in the opinion of the Clerk of the Senedd is likely to cause offence (having regard to the terms of the Senedd Dignity and Respect Policy in force at the time);
  5. general meetings (whether annual or extraordinary) of external organisations;
  6. other activities resulting in financial gain to the Member or any other person. 

Guidance

When sponsoring events Members should recall that the use of the Senedd estate by Members for events is to enable the Senedd to be a pioneering legislature that puts the voice of the people of Wales at the heart of what we do through meaningful engagement and the conduct of Senedd business.

The Senedd Dignity and Respect Policy can be accessed at https://senedd.wales/help/complaints/welsh-parliament-dignity-and-respect-policy/ 

 

Rule 14 – Booking of meeting rooms

Members may not book meeting rooms on the Senedd estate for party political business.

Guidance

Members' attention is drawn to:

  1.  the definition of "party political" in these rules.
  2. The provisions of Rule 16 which deals with special arrangements which may apply during an election period.

    It is recognised that maintaining a strict separation between business that properly relates to Members duties and something that falls within the definition of "party political" can sometimes be difficult. While this Rule is intended to be strictly observed, therefore, an incidental reference to something party political during otherwise proper business in a meeting room is unlikely to amount to a breach of this Rule.

 

Rule 15 – Security vetting

The use of Commission resources, other than by Members or their partners (as defined in Standing Order 3.2(ii)), is restricted to persons who have first been security vetted at the appropriate level.

Guidance

Members' employees must all be security vetted before they begin work, whether based in Tŷ Hywel or elsewhere.

 

Rule 16 – Election periods: special arrangements to apply

During an election period Members must observe any additional restrictions on the use of Commission resources, the Senedd estate or the conduct of media operations during such period specified by the Commission.

Guidance

Elections and referendums are periods of heightened political sensitivity, necessitating restrictions to ensure that Commission resources and the Senedd estate are not used for the benefit of a political party or individual candidate. Such measures will be notified by the Commission to Members and to the chiefs of staff (or equivalent) of each political party.

 

Rules and Guidance on the use of Senedd Resources during the Election (Emergency) Period

This document relates to paragraph 10 of the Code of Conduct.

Status

These Rules are issued under the authority of the Code of Conduct for Senedd Members, paragraph 10, by the Chief Executive and Clerk of the Senedd in her capacity as the principal accounting officer for the Senedd Commission under section 138 of the Government of Wales Act 2006.

Application

These Rules apply during the Election (Emergency) Period as defined below.   They supplement the Rules and Guidance on the Use of Senedd Resources issued by the Chief Executive and Clerk of the Senedd on 14 September 2020 (“the Principal Rules) which continue to apply. 

During the Election (Emergency) Period, where the Principal Rules conflict with these Rules, it is these Rules which apply. 

Interpretation

During the Election (Emergency) Period, the definitions set out below apply. 

“Election (Emergency) Period”- means 7 April 2021 to 6 May 2021 (inclusive).

“Party political” – means anything that could be perceived by a fair minded and impartial observer as seeking to influence how a member of the electorate votes in an ordinary general election to the Senedd. It does not include anything done by a Member or their staff in connection with business before the Senedd or the use of logos or branding in accordance with the Principal Rules.

The Rules

Rule 1 – Staff records

Rule 3 of the Principal Rules is supplemented as follows:

(1)  Members must ensure that staff do not carry out Party political activity while paid out of Commission resources.

(2) Members must keep accurate records of hours worked by staff in relation to Members’ duties (including Group staff) and make them available for inspection by the Senedd Commissioner for Standards (when requested to do so).

Guidance

This guidance is given to assist Members and does not form part of these Rules. 

Members are reminded that Rule 4 of the Principal Rules continues to apply.

Members are also referred to-

  • the “Election Period Guidance” issued by the Senedd Commission for the 2021 Senedd general election;
  • the Determination on Members’ Pay and Allowances 2020-2021 issued by the Independent Remuneration Board of the Senedd.

Breach of these Rules may result in a complaint to the Senedd Commissioner for Standards.