What are these Rules?
No member of the Conservative Party is allowed to oppose a Conservative Party candidate in any election. Also, they are not allowed to act as the agent of such a person. To do either is to commit a serious disciplinary offence.
These rules govern the handling of complaints about Conservative Party members standing as a candidate against and/or acting as an agent for another who is standing against one or more Conservative candidates in any local or general elections, including any by-elections.
They are made pursuant to the Party’s Constitution which gives the Party Board the power to take disciplinary action against ‘any member whose conduct is in conflict with the purpose, objects and values of the Party’ (Part IV, para. 17.22) and makes clear that ‘standing in an election against an official Party Candidate shall be considered to be a ground for expulsion of a Party Member from the Association of which they are a member and from the Party' (Schedule 6, para. 11). These rules do not apply to any other type of conduct.
Who can make a complaint under these Rules?
Any person who is 15 years of age or older.
When do these rules apply?
Where any person over the age of 15 thinks that a current member of the Conservative Party is in any public election
a. standing as a candidate against one or more Conservative candidates; or
b. is acting as an agent for a non-Conservative Party candidate.
If they want to complain, they must follow these rules. If a person under the age of 15 wishes to make a complaint it can be made by their parent or guardian. A person cannot complain about someone who is not a current member of the Conservative Party.
If a person is complained about under these rules, he or she is entitled a reasonable opportunity to defend themselves but must do so by following these rules.
The person making a complaint is called the Complainant. The person who is complained about is called the Respondent.
In these rules, a person’s complaint is called a complaint. A response to the complaint is called a response. Together, they are both called a matter.
More than one person can make the same complaint. More than one person can be the Respondent to the complaint. In these rules Complainant and Respondent refers to singular or plural.
The Conservative Party may be a complainant and it has the right and the power to bring a complaint in its own name.
Confidentiality and Legal Proceedings
Proceedings under these rules are confidential. The Complainant and Respondent must keep them confidential.
Nothing under these Rules affects anyone’s rights to bring any lawful proceedings in any Court or to refer any matter to a UK law enforcement agency.
How to Make a Complaint
- Make it promptly. A Complainant must make a complaint promptly after becoming aware of the candidate or agent complained about. Any delay in making a complaint may prejudice it being resolved. Serious delay may mean that the complaint may be rejected because it is not possible to deal with it fairly. What amounts to delay or serious delay will depend on the facts of each case and will be decided by the Presenting Officer.
- Provide all relevant information. Any complaint must provide the following information:
a. The name of the Complainant including two sets of contact details;
b. The name of the Respondent and their position in the Party (if known);
c. The electoral area in which the Respondent is alleged to be standing or acting as agent;
d. The election in which the Respondent is alleged to be standing or acting as agent.
- Provide all relevant evidence, including the Statement of Persons Nominated or Declaration of Result of Poll or Notice of Election Agents’ Names and Offices if they are available. In addition to this information, the Complainant must also provide ALL the evidence they want to rely on including witness evidence. This is the only opportunity under these Rules to provide evidence to support a complaint. Illegible material will not be accepted.
- The Respondent is only obliged to respond to the complaint.
- Send the complaint to the correct place. The complaint must be sent to the Presenting Officer at the Conservative Party, 10 Wellington Place, Leeds LS1 4AP or in an email marked for their attention to [email protected].
Sending the Complaint to the Respondent
- After the complaint has been received, the Presenting Officer will consider whether the complaint should be rejected or accepted. The Officer will reject the complaint if it is considered
a. having regard to what information and evidence is required, it is incomplete;
b. the evidence is, at first glance, clearly too weak to prove the allegation on the balance of probabilities.
The Complainant will be told of any rejection of the complaint at this stage as soon as possible. It is permissible to re-make the complaint on one further occasion provided it is made within three working days of receiving notification that this may occur. Thereafter, the complaint will not be accepted.
- In all other cases, the Presenting Officer will promptly send the complaint to the Respondent without undertaking any further investigation.
The Response to the Complaint
- The Respondent is entitled to admit the complaint or deny it. The Respondent must tell the Presenting Officer in writing whether the complaint is admitted or denied in accordance with these Rules.
- If the Respondent denies the complaint, it must be for a stated reason. They must provide all evidence in support of their position, including any witness evidence. This is the only opportunity that they will have to explain their position. Illegible material will not be accepted.
- The Respondent must communicate the response to the complaint by 18.00hrs on the fifth working day after the Presenting Officer sent out the complaint. To avoid doubt, the first of those 5 days is the first working day after the complaint was sent out. For example, if the complaint was sent on Monday 1 June, the Respondent must respond to the Presenting Officer by 18.00hrs on Monday 8 June. The Presenting Officer may extend the deadline from 5 working days up to no more than 10 working days if either the Respondent request it or there is a very compelling reason to grant that request.
- If the Respondent fails to admit or deny the complaint, or fails to respond to the complaint at all, the matter will be referred to the panel on the expiry of the 5-day deadline specified above without further notice or reference to the Respondent.
- If the Respondent admits the complaint and wishes to make amends themselves, they must tell the Presenting Officer and explain what steps are intended and when they will be taken.
Referring the Matter for a Decision
- After the Presenting Officer has received the response to the complaint, the matter shall be referred to a decision-making panel as soon as possible.
- The panel will comprise of at least one and at most five persons and will be drawn from the panel of the Disciplinary Sub-Committee.
- The panel will decide whether the complaint is upheld or dismissed. If it is dismissed, the Complainant will be told in writing as soon as possible with reasons. If it is accepted, the Complainant and the Respondent will be told in writing as soon as possible with reasons.
- If it is accepted, the panel is entitled, to sanction a Respondent where a complaint has been upheld or take such other regulatory step as he or she sees fit. The sanctions and regulatory steps that may be imposed are set out in schedule 1. The sanctions and steps are deemed to be effective immediately unless stated otherwise.
- The panel may, instead of imposing a sanction and in his or her absolute discretion, refer the matter to a Disciplinary Sub-Committee constituted under the Rules and Procedure of the Disciplinary Sub-Committee for further consideration including the imposition of any sanction.
- Failure by a Respondent to comply with any decision is a discrete disciplinary offence under the Party Constitution and may justify separate disciplinary proceedings being brought.
- The Respondent has the right to appeal a decision. The Complainant has no right of appeal.
- The procedure of an appeal is set out in paragraphs 7.1 – 7.5 of the Rules and Procedure of the Disciplinary Sub-Committee.
- It is permissible for an appeal committee to impose a different penalty to the one imposed by the panel, including a more serious penalty.