Amanda Milling is the Member of Parliament for Cannock Chase and co-Chairman of the Conservative Party.
Six weeks ago, Professor Swaran Singh’s investigation into racism and discrimination within the Conservative Party was published.
While the report found no evidence of institutionalised racism, it set out the need for the Conservative Party to overhaul its complaints process so it was more transparent, and to simplify our Code of Conduct to ensure members have a fuller understanding of the standards expected of them.
The report set out 27 recommendations for the party to accept so we can begin to tackle these issues.
The first step in this process is the publication of an Action Plan setting out how we will implement the recommendations. Today we are publishing this plan – which you can read in full here.
The Conservative Party has always been a trailblazer when it comes to breaking through barriers, and it is core to our identity as a party that no one should be held back or discriminated against for any reason.
Regardless of race, background, gender, religious belief, sexual orientation or anything else, everyone should have the opportunity to succeed, and everyone should be welcome in the Conservative Party.
As Co-Chairman of the Party I am determined to fix the problems that the Singh investigation shone a light on because, for me, one case of discrimination is one too many.
This Action Plan is the first stepping stone in tackling where we have fallen short and ensuring we put things right.
This Action Plan sets out how over the next year we will update our Code of Conduct so everyone is aware of the behaviour we expect of them. We will be improving our communication to members and training our Party officers to enable them to investigate and address issues effectively. And we will be clarifying how the complaints process works and what actions we will be taking at every step of that process.
Within the same timeframe as publishing the Action Plan the recommendations required us to review and clarify our Social Media Complaints Rules – this work has already been done and approved by the Board and will be further reviewed with the fuller review of the Code of Conduct.
As Co-Chairman, I am also aware of some of the frustrations and distress our process has, at times, caused to both the accused and the victims. We are determined to provide our complaints team with the resources to investigate and resolve these issues in a timely manner. Some cases are incredibly complex and rightly need a thorough investigation.
However as part of the recommendations, and as part of my determination to provide a better system, we will be introducing clear guidelines and expectations on how long we might reasonably expect cases to be investigated.
As part of these recommendations, we were asked to improve the transparency of our complaints system including notifying respondents about the identity of members of the panel that’s assessing their case. These processes are now in place increasing confidence for those going through the complaints system.
The Action Plan sets out a clear path over the next year for the Party to put right the findings of Professor Singh’s investigation.
There’s no denying these recommendations are challenging. It requires the whole Conservative Party family – members, Associations, elected representatives and Conservative Campaign Headquarters – to work together to implement these recommendations.
We will all need to get to grips with a clearer Code of Conduct. Associations Officers will need to set aside time for training on the complaints process to ensure all complaints are handled to the highest standard. CCHQ will be working with the voluntary party to deliver these changes and ensure the smooth implementation of Professor Singh’s recommendations.
This is not something that can be delivered by CCHQ alone. Over the coming weeks and months I will need your help to make these changes and I hope you will work with us to improve our Party for the better.
It’s only by reviewing our Code of Conduct, implementing training, and improving transparency that we can ensure our complaints process can root out racism and discrimination while ensuring it’s fair and easy for those that need it.
At every step of the way we will be working with you, the Conservative Party family, to ensure we are held accountable to delivering these recommendations and sticking to the timeline set out in the Action Plan.
The recommendations set out by Professor Singh require the Party to provide an update on its progress in delivering the Action Plan. You have my full commitment that the Party will update you on that progress in six months time.
Let’s use this Action Plan as a way of ensuring we right the wrongs of the past, and build on being a Party of aspiration and opportunity to all.