Appendix 3: Avoidance of conflict of interest:
Guidance for chairmen and members of select committees |
Guidance approved by the Committee on Standards
1. On 30 October 2003, when deciding that the
chairmen of certain select committees should be paid from the
start of the 2003-04 Parliamentary Session, the House approved
the Sixth Report of the Committee on Standards and Privileges
(HC 1150). In that report, made in the context of a recommendation
from the Review Body on Senior Salaries that certain select committee
chairmen should receive an extra payment of £12,500 per annum,
the Committee considered whether such a decision should be accompanied
by restrictions on the outside interests they might hold. The
Committee saw no reason why it should but recognised that there
would be certain such activities for which it would no longer
be appropriate that the chairmen in question should be paid.
2. The House endorsed two principles set out
in that report relating to circumstances in which it would not
be right for those chairmen to accept payments for outside activities
arising primarily as a result of their chairmanship. In its report,
the Committee undertook to offer guidance on the practical application
of those principles, and on related matters.
3. This note, which has been prepared in response
to that undertaking, has been approved by the Committee, following
advice from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. It covers
both the question of declaration of interests by select committee
chairmen and the principles to be observed by chairmen when considering
accepting payment for activities outside the House.
Declaration of interests in select committees
4. Present practice relating to declarations
of interest in select committees, withdrawal from committee proceedings
and procedures prior to the election of a chairman was approved
by the House on 13 July 1992. It is based on a report by the then
Select Committee on Members' Interests on the interests of Chairmen
and Members of Select Committees (First Report from the Select
Committee on Members' Interests, Session 1990-91 (HC 108)). The
recommendations on procedures prior to the election of a chairman
apply to all select committees except those of a "wholly
5. The intention of the House was to ensure that,
when the members of a select committee choose their chairman,
they do so knowing his or her relevant interests. The presumption
is that they will select a member whose effectiveness in that
role will not be compromised by his or her outside interests.
6. The most common situation in which a committee
needs to choose a chairman is when it first meets. Before then,
or at that meeting, all members are required to declare their
interests. They then proceed to choose a chairman. The fact that
members have declared their interests is recorded in the Committee's
Minutes of Proceedings. Besides registrable interests, members
declare relevant non-registrable interests, pecuniary and non-pecuniary.
If it is necessary to choose a new chairman at any other time,
the procedures used ensure that any prospective chairman's relevant
interests are known to the committee.
7. Since 2001, details of individual members'
declarations have also been published in full as an appendix to
the relevant day's proceedings in the Committee's Minutes of Proceedings
for the Session. In future, the Committee will also publish that
day's Minutes of Proceedings separately, in the interests of transparency,
as soon as practicable after the chairman has been chosen, and
make them accessible through its website.
8. Given the broad scope of many departments'
responsibilities, a chairman may occasionally find that he or
she has a conflicting interest in relation to a specific inquiry.
In such circumstances, if the difficulty cannot otherwise be resolved,
the chairman stands aside from the inquiry.
9. If a chairman (or candidate for chairman)
of a particular select committee has any questions about the application
of this approach to his or her own circumstances, he or she should
seek advice either through the Clerk of the committee in question
or direct from the Registrar of Members' Interests. If necessary,
the Registrar will consult the Parliamentary Commissioner for
Standards about any particularly difficult or complex circumstances.
10. Declarations of interests ahead of the election
of a chairman are in addition to, and not a substitute for, the
requirement to declare at the appropriate times pecuniary (and,
on occasion, non-pecuniary) interests that are relevant to specific
inquiries and committee decisions. Such declarations are also
formally recorded in the Minutes of Proceedings and, where appropriate,
in the oral evidence. As with Chairmen's interests, the advice
of the Registrar, and the Commissioner if necessary, is always
available to Members on these matters.
Implications of payment for select committee chairmen
11. The House accepted that the introduction
of payment of select committee chairmen from public funds should
not of itself lead to restrictions on chairmen's outside interests
over and above those which already apply to all Members. However,
it also accepted that limitations are appropriate on the circumstances
in which chairmen should accept payment for an outside activity
arising primarily from the chairmanship. The purpose of these
limitations is to avoid any question of, or appearance of, any
double paymentfrom both a chairman's salary and an outside
interest. Nor should chairmen paid from public funds gain private
benefit from work done, in whole or in part, with any assistance
from public resources.
12. Limitations are only intended to apply where
the outside activity in question arises primarily from the committee
chairmanship. A pre-existing activity is in principle unlikely
to fall within their scope, unless taken on in the expectation
of assuming the chairmanship, or materially extended in scale
thereafter. The limitations are not intended to catch anything
done primarily in a personal or a constituency capacity, or where
the committee chairmanship is incidental.
13. Furthermore, given that Members chosen as
Select Committee chairmen tend to have been in the House for some
time, there will undoubtedly be occasions when it is for this
reason (rather than primarily because of their chairmanship) that
they are invited, for example, to appear on current affairs programmes.
Provided that the rules which apply to all Members on the registration
of income from media appearances are observed, they would not
be expected in these circumstances to decline payment on account
of their chairmanship.
14. The decision of the House means that it will
not be appropriate for a chairman to accept payment (as distinct
from reimbursement of expenses incurred) in respect of anything
such as a talk, address, interview, article, book review, contribution
to a book, or media appearance, etc, where the relevant invitation
has been extended to the Member in his or her capacity as chairman
of the select committee on X, or primarily because he or she is
chairman of a select committee falling within the scope of the
decision of the House of 30 October 2003. It will also not be
appropriate for a chairman to accept payment for any outside activity
in the preparation of which he or she has received substantial
help from sources directly funded from the public purse, such
as the Clerk or other staff of the Committee.
15. The key question a chairman should ask when
weighing up whether payment is acceptable is "Had I not been
chairman of the select committee on X, is it significantly less
likely that I personally would have been asked to undertake this
activity?" In formulating his or her response, a chairman
is welcome to seek advice from the Registrar of Members' Interests
(Ms Alda Barry, extension 3277), who will if necessary consult
the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.
16. The Committee on Standards and Privileges
recognised that introducing the new restrictions in the course
of a Parliament might cause difficulties for some chairmen. It
therefore said that, as a transitional arrangement for the remainder
of this Parliament, existing chairmen should have the option of
electing either to receive payment from public funds, and accepting
the restrictions set out above, or declining to receive payment,
in which case their existing freedoms will remain unchanged. A
chairman contemplating taking advantage of this transitional arrangement
is also welcome to seek advice from the Registrar.
17. The Committee on Standards and Privileges
hopes that this advice will in particular be helpful to chairmen
as they consider the implications of the House's decisions on
the payment of select committee chairmen. The Committee intends
to keep the operation of this guidance under review in the light
of experience, drawing on the advice of the Registrar of Members'
Interests and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards as
November 2003 Sir Philip Mawer
37 Seventh Report from the Committee on Standards and
Privileges, Session 2002-03, HC 1292 Back