Select Committee on House of Commons Commission Report


The Speaker (The Rt Hon Michael Martin) (Chairman), ex officio

The Leader of the House of Commons (The Rt Hon Robin Cook), ex officio

The Rt Hon Eric Forth, nominated by the Leader of the Opposition
Mr Stuart Bellnominated by the House
Mr Archy Kirkwoodnominated by the House

Secretary to the Commission: Mr Robert Rogers


Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards:
Nomination of Candidate


1. On 19 July 1995, the House debated the First Report of the Select Committee on Standards in Public Life,[1] and passed the following Resolution:

    " That the appointment of a Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards be set in hand under arrangements to be made by Madam Speaker on the advice of the House of Commons Commission and in accordance with the recommendations of the Select Committee on Standards in Public Life."

2. The principal duties of the Commissioner are:

      —  Maintaining and monitoring the operation of the Register of Members' Interests.

      —  Providing advice on a confidential basis to individual Members and to the Select Committee on Standards and Privileges about the interpretation of the Code of Conduct and about questions of propriety.

      —  Preparing guidance and providing induction courses for new Members on matters of conduct, propriety and ethics.

      —  Monitoring the operation of the Code of Conduct and, where appropriate, proposing possible modifications of it to the Committee.

      —  Receiving and investigating complaints about the conduct of Members (whether related directly to alleged breaches of the Code or not) and reporting findings to the Committee.

3. Sir Gordon Downey was nominated by the House of Commons Commission to be the first Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, and his nomination was approved by the House on 6 November 1995.

4. The Commission nominated Ms Elizabeth Filkin to succeed Sir Gordon, and her nomination was approved by the House on 17 November 1998. Ms Filkin's appointment comes to an end on 14 February 2002.

5. The House of Commons Commission would like to record its appreciation of Ms Filkin's dedication to the work of the House. She has successfully brought a number of complex inquiries to a conclusion. Coupled with the Standards and Privileges Committee's consideration of reports presented to them, her work has fully validated the system of Parliamentary self-regulation established following the recommendation of the first Nolan Report.

6. The Commission decided that, on the expiry of Ms Filkin's appointment, there should be an open competition for the post. Ms Filkin was assured a place on the final short list should she wish, but decided not to enter the process.

The competition

7. Following advertisement in the national press and a search by recruitment consultants, a total of 63 candidates was reduced through sifts and interviews to a short list of six. Those candidates were interviewed by a Board consisting of the Clerk Assistant, Mr Roger Sands (Chairman), the Rt Hon. The Lord Newton of Braintree OBE, the Rt. Hon Eric Forth MP (a Member of the Commission), Sir Gordon Downey KCB, and the Director of Finance and Administration, Mr Andrew Walker.

8. The interview Board recommended three candidates for final interview by the Commission. For those interviews, Commissioners were joined by the Chairman of the Committee on Standards and Privileges, the Rt. Hon Sir George Young, Bt., MP. Mr Archy Kirkwood, a Member of the Commission, decided to take no part in the interviews because a complaint against him will fall to be examined by the incoming Commissioner. The Commission regretted his absence but believed that his action was entirely right and proper in the circumstances.

9. The Commission wished to ensure that the selection process followed best practice. Lord Newton and Sir Gordon Downey were independent members of the Board. Ms Sheila Drew Smith, an assessor recommended by the Commission for Public Appointments, attended the later stages of the sifting process, the meetings of the interview Board, and the final interviews by the Commission. The Commission is very grateful to her, and to Lord Newton and Sir Gordon Downey, for their help and advice.

The nominated candidate

10. Following the exacting process set out above, the House of Commons Commission, with the agreement of the Chairman of the Committee on Standards and Privileges, recommends to the House Mr Philip John Courtney Mawer, at present Secretary General of the General Synod of the Church of England and Secretary General of the Archbishops' Council. The Commission is confident that he has the necessary standing, ability and personal authority for the role, and that he will bring to it the independence, discretion, and strength of character required to ensure that the system of Parliamentary self-regulation continues to work effectively, and that it is seen to do so both inside and outside the House.

11. Mr Mawer's curriculum vitae is set out in the Annex.

12. If the House approves the nomination, the Commission intends that the appointment should be initially for three years. Mr Mawer has indicated that he would be able to take up the appointment at the beginning of March 2002. There would thus be a gap of less than one sitting week between the end of Ms Filkin's contract and Mr Mawer beginning work.


13. The House's Internal Review Service (IRS) is carrying out a review of the resources necessary to support the work of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. The Commission will base its judgement of the resources required on the IRS's advice and on the views of the new Commissioner and of the Chairman of the Committee on Standards and Privileges. Whatever resources are judged to be required will be provided, and the situation will be reviewed as necessary.

14. The new Commissioner will wish to form a view on the time commitment necessary for him fully to discharge his duties. If his nomination is approved by the House, Mr Mawer will take up the appointment initially on the basis of a three-day week at a salary of £75,000 p.a.; it is of course likely that the workload will vary from time to time, and the Commission will impose no restriction on the days per week which the Parliamentary Commissioner considers necessary.

1  HC (1994-95) 637. Back

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