Local Government Bill [H.L.] - continued        House of Lords
PART III, CONDUCT OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT MEMBERS AND EMPLOYEES - continued
Investigations - continued

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Procedure in respect of investigations     55. - (1) The procedure for conducting an investigation under section 53 is to be such as the ethical standards officer considers appropriate in the circumstances of the case.
 
      (2) Without prejudice to subsection (1), the ethical standards officer must give any person who is the subject of an investigation under section 53 an opportunity to comment on any allegation that he has failed, or may have failed, to comply with the authority's code of conduct.
 
      (3) An ethical standards officer may, if he thinks fit, pay to persons who attend or furnish information for the purposes of an investigation under section 53-
 
 
    (a) such sums in respect of the expenses properly incurred by them, and
 
    (b) such allowances by way of compensation for the loss of their time,
  as may be determined by the relevant person.
 
      (4) In subsection (3) "the relevant person"-
 
 
    (a) in relation to an investigation under section 53 by an ethical standards officer of the Standards Board for England, means the Secretary of State, and
 
    (b) in relation to an investigation under section 53 by an ethical standards officer of the Standards Board for Wales, means the National Assembly for Wales.
      (5) The carrying out of an investigation under section 53 is not to affect-
 
 
    (a) any action taken by the relevant authority concerned, or
 
    (b) any power or duty of that authority to take further action with respect to any matters which are the subject of the investigation.
Investigations: further provisions.     56. - (1) An ethical standards officer, or a person authorised by such an officer, has a right of access at all reasonable times to every document relating to a relevant authority which appears to him necessary for the purpose of conducting an investigation under section 53 in relation to a member or co-opted member of the authority.
 
      (2) An ethical standards officer, or a person authorised by such an officer, may-
 
 
    (a) make such inquiries of any person as he thinks necessary for the purpose of conducting such an investigation,
 
    (b) require any person to give him such information or explanation as he thinks necessary for the purpose of conducting such an investigation, and
 
    (c) if he thinks necessary, require any person to attend before him in person for the purpose of making inquiries of that person or requiring that person to give any information or explanation.
      (3) Without prejudice to subsections (1) and (2), a relevant authority must provide an ethical standards officer, or a person authorised by such an officer, with every facility and all information which he may reasonably require for the purposes of conducting an investigation under section 53 in relation to a member or co-opted member of the authority.
 
      (4) An ethical standards officer, or a person authorised by such an officer, may under this section require any person-
 
 
    (a) to furnish information concerning communications between the authority concerned and any Government department, or
 
    (b) to produce any correspondence or other documents forming part of any such written communications.
      (5) No obligation to maintain secrecy or other restriction upon the disclosure of information obtained by or furnished to persons in Her Majesty's service, whether imposed by any enactment or by any rule of law, is to apply to the disclosure of information in accordance with subsection (4).
 
      (6) Where subsection (4) applies, the Crown is not to be entitled to any such privilege in respect of the production of documents or the giving of evidence as is allowed by law in legal proceedings.
 
      (7) Nothing in this section affects-
 
 
    (a) the restriction, imposed by section 11(2) of the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967, on the disclosure of information by the Parliamentary Commissioner or his officers,
 
    (b) the restriction, imposed by section 32(2) of the Local Government Act 1974, on the disclosure of information by any members or officers of the Commission for Local Administration in England or the Commission for Local Administration in Wales, or
 
    (c) the restriction, imposed by section 15 of the Health Service Commissioners Act 1993, on the disclosure of information by the Health Service Commissioner for England or the Health Service Commissioner for Wales, or by their officers.
      (8) To assist him in any investigation under section 53, an ethical standards officer may obtain advice from any person who in his opinion is qualified to give it and may pay to any such person such fees or allowances as he may determine with the approval of the relevant person.
 
      (9) In subsection (8) "the relevant person"-
 
 
    (a) in relation to an investigation under section 53 by an ethical standards officer of the Standards Board for England, means the Secretary of State, and
 
    (b) in relation to an investigation under section 53 by an ethical standards officer of the Standards Board for Wales, means the National Assembly for Wales.
      (10) Subject to subsections (5) and (6), no person may be compelled for the purposes of an investigation under section 53 to give any evidence or produce any document which he could not be compelled to give or produce in civil proceedings before the High Court.
 
      (11) A person who without reasonable excuse fails to comply with any requirement under this section is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.
 
      (12) In this section any reference to documents includes a reference to information held by means of a computer or in any other electronic form.
 
Restrictions on disclosure of information.     57. - (1) Information obtained by ethical standards officers under section 56 must not be disclosed unless one or more of the following conditions is satisfied-
 
 
    (a) the disclosure is made for the purposes of enabling the Standards Board for England, the Standards Board for Wales, an ethical standards officer of either of those Boards or a tribunal drawn from either of the Adjudication Panels to perform their functions under this Part,
 
    (b) the person to whom the information relates has consented to its disclosure,
 
    (c) the information has previously been disclosed to the public with lawful authority,
 
    (d) the disclosure is for the purposes of criminal proceedings in any part of the United Kingdom and the information in question was not obtained under section 56(2),
 
    (e) the disclosure is made to the Audit Commission for the purposes of any functions of the Audit Commission or an auditor under the Audit Commission Act 1998.
      (2) The Secretary of State or a relevant authority in England may give notice in writing to any ethical standards officer of the Standards Board for England with respect to-
 
 
    (a) any document or information specified in the notice, or
 
    (b) any class of documents or information so specified,
  that, in his or (as the case may be) their opinion, the disclosure of that document or information, or of documents or information of that class, would be contrary to the public interest.
 
      (3) The National Assembly for Wales or a relevant authority in Wales may give notice in writing to any ethical standards officer of the Standards Board for Wales with respect to-
 
 
    (a) any document or information specified in the notice, or
 
    (b) any class of documents or information so specified,
  that, in its or (as the case may be) their opinion, the disclosure of that document or information, or of documents or information of that class, would be contrary to the public interest.
 
      (4) Where notice is given under subsection (2) or (3) to an ethical standards officer, any document or information specified in the notice, or any document or information of a class so specified, may not be disclosed by the ethical standards officer or any other person.
 
      (5) A person who discloses information in contravention of subsection (1) is guilty of an offence and liable-
 
 
    (a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or
 
    (b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to a fine or to both.
 
Reports etc.
Reports etc.     58. - (1) Where an ethical standards officer determines in relation to any case that a finding under section 53(5)(a) or (b) is appropriate-
 
 
    (a) he may produce a report on the outcome of his investigation,
 
    (b) he may provide a summary of any such report to any newspapers circulating in the area,
 
    (c) he must send to the monitoring officer of the relevant authority concerned a copy of any such report, and
 
    (d) where he does not produce any such report, he must inform the monitoring officer of that relevant authority of the outcome of the investigation.
      (2) Where an ethical standards officer determines in relation to any case that a finding under section 53(5)(c) is appropriate he must-
 
 
    (a) produce a report on the outcome of his investigation,
 
    (b) refer the matters which are the subject of the investigation to the monitoring officer of the relevant authority concerned, and
 
    (c) send a copy of the report to the monitoring officer, and the standards committee, of that relevant authority.
      (3) Where an ethical standards officer determines in relation to any case that a finding under section 53(5)(d) is appropriate he must-
 
 
    (a) produce a report on the outcome of his investigation,
 
    (b) refer the matters which are the subject of the investigation to the president of the relevant Adjudication Panel for adjudication by a tribunal falling within section 62(1), and
 
    (c) send a copy of the report to the monitoring officer of the relevant authority concerned and to the president of the relevant Adjudication Panel.
      (4) A report under this section may cover more than one investigation under section 53 in relation to any members or co-opted members of the same relevant authority.
 
      (5) An ethical standards officer must-
 
 
    (a) inform any member or co-opted member of the relevant authority concerned who is the subject of an investigation under section 53, and
 
    (b) take reasonable steps to inform any person who made any allegation which gave rise to the investigation,
  of the outcome of the investigation.
 
Interim reports.     59. - (1) Where they consider it necessary in the public interest, ethical standards officers may produce interim reports on investigations under section 53 conducted by them.
 
      (2) An interim report under this section may cover more than one investigation under section 53 in relation to any members or co-opted members of the same relevant authority.
 
      (3) Where the prima facie evidence is such that it appears to the ethical standards officer producing the interim report-
 
 
    (a) that the person who is the subject of the report has failed to comply with the code of conduct of a relevant authority,
 
    (b) that the nature of that failure is such as to be likely to lead to disqualification under section 65(4)(b) or (5)(b), and
 
    (c) that it is in the public interest to suspend that person immediately,
  the interim report may include a recommendation that that person should be suspended or partially suspended by the relevant authority concerned from being a member or co-opted member of the authority.
 
      (4) The period of suspension or partial suspension which may be recommended under subsection (3) must not exceed six months or (if shorter) the remainder of the person's term of office.
 
      (5) Where an ethical standards officer produces an interim report under this section which contains such a recommendation as is mentioned in subsection (3), he must refer the matters which are the subject of the report to the president of the relevant Adjudication Panel for adjudication by a tribunal falling within section 62(2).
 
      (6) A copy of any report under this section must be given-
 
 
    (a) to any member or co-opted member of the relevant authority concerned who is the subject of the report,
 
    (b) to the monitoring officer of the relevant authority concerned, and
 
    (c) to the president of the relevant Adjudication Panel.
      (7) Any reference in this Part to a person being partially suspended from being a member or co-opted member of a relevant authority is a reference to a person being prevented from exercising particular functions or having particular responsibilities as such a member or co-opted member.
 
 
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