Wales politics

Inappropriate behaviour 'still a problem for Welsh Assembly'

The Senedd building in Cardiff Bay. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Some respondents expressed confidence in new processes the assembly has put in place to tackle harassment

Inappropriate behaviour is still a problem in the assembly, a statement from all four of the institution's political leaders has said.

A survey of assembly staff and AMs found 23 people reported issues in the workplace in the 12 months to May 2019.

It was fewer than 2018, but the leaders said "the actions of a few tarnish us all" and it "must be challenged".

A campaign to challenge inappropriate behaviour will take place across the summer and into the autumn.

Instances of unwanted physical contact and unwanted persistent attention were reported.

The assembly introduced a new policy last year, aiming to regulate AMs' private and public conduct, following allegations of inappropriate behaviour, sexual harassment and assault in Westminster.

It is the second year of the dignity and respect survey, giving staff and AMs the chance to report inappropriate behaviour without being identified.

A total of 177 people responded, with replies about inappropriate behaviour saying:

  • 142 had not experienced it, compared to 69 in 2018
  • 16 had on multiple occasions, compared to 32 in 2018
  • seven had once, compared to five in 2018
  • six preferred not to say, while six did not answer that question

While those experiencing harassment fell from 37 in last year's survey from to 23, an assembly report said the figure "remains high and indicates that further work is required".

While "a number" of respondents said the experiences encountered were fairly low-level, dealt with at the time or not felt to be bad enough to formally make a complaint, some were more significant.

A total of 34 people also said they had observed some form of inappropriate behaviour in the past 12 months, down from 42 in 2018.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption More people took part in the 2019 survey than in 2018, when 128 people responded

When asked about bullying, the report noted examples were "not widespread" but "apparent across commission staff and members' support staff."

Respondents said a number of incidents had been called out at the time, but noted there was "more reticence to do so when it is a member of senior management or an assembly member".

There was a perception among respondents that some politicians or senior staff displayed unreasonable behaviour and "this is excused rather than tackled".

The statement, signed by First Minister Mark Drakeford, Plaid leader Adam Price, Brexit Party's Mark Reckless, Welsh Tory Senedd leader Paul Davies, Presiding Officer Elin Jones and standards committee chairwoman Jayne Bryant, said: "Systems have been improved and awareness raising will continue into the future.

"However, feedback from the survey suggests that personal behaviours and how we conduct ourselves on a day-to-day basis constitute an issue that still needs to be addressed."

The politicians said more than 80% of participants had not experienced any form of inappropriate behaviour, but "we each have responsibility to bring about the cultural changes we seek to achieve - either through appropriately challenging individuals or by managing our own personal conduct more effectively".

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