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At the Commons standards committee Mark Spencer, the leader of the Commons, and Michael Ellis, the Cabinet Office minister, have been giving evidence about the MPs’ code of conduct.

Asked if the MP responsible for the sexist briefing about Angela Rayner to the Mail on Sunday had broken any rules in the code of conduct for MPs, Spencer said the person was not showing leadership or integrity – two of the general principles in the code that MPs are meant to uphold.

I don’t suppose they’ve broken any rule in the house, or committed a crime that could be charged in general society. I think they’ve just acted, frankly, in an inappropriate way, and that should be roundly condemned.

If your contention is that there ought to be a new requirement to explicitly, or more explicitly, demonstrate anti-discriminatory attitudes, then the balance that has to be borne when one starts to drill down … one has to consider the chilling effect that, unwittingly, on debate that might be affected.

As [Spencer] was saying, nobody wants to stifle legitimate debate, even raucous, robust debate, even politically contentious issues where people express themselves in an obnoxious fashion, because it’s important to our democracy don’t people don’t feel intimidated into expressing their views.

Members should abide by the parliamentary behaviour code and should demonstrate anti-discriminatory attitudes and behaviours through the promotion of anti-racism, inclusion and diversity.

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