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Lord Dixon-Smith: I do not apologise to the Committee for bringing this matter before it this afternoon. Of course we were aware that it was possible to bring criminal proceedings in this area. However, I was not aware that it was inappropriate for a case tribunal to deliver a judgment with regard to a criminal offence. The explanation is helpful. I shall study carefully what the Minister has said. I believe that he has gone a long way towards answering our concerns. I hope that I shall not have to refer to the matter again. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 52 agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 358:


(".--(1) Any case tribunal which gives notice to a standards committee of a relevant authority under section 52 may also make recommendations to the authority about any matters relating to--
(a) the exercise of the authority's functions,
(b) the authority's code of conduct, or
(c) the authority's standards committee.
(2) A case tribunal must send a copy of any recommendations it makes under subsection (1) to the relevant Standards Board.
(3) A relevant authority to whom recommendations are made under subsection (1) must consider the recommendations and, within a period of three months beginning with the day on which the recommendations are received, prepare a report for the relevant Standards Board giving details of what action the authority have taken or are proposing to take as a result of the recommendations.
(4) A relevant authority's function of considering a report under subsection (3) must be discharged only by the authority or by the standards committee of that authority.
(5) If the relevant Standards Board is not satisfied with the action the relevant authority has taken or proposes to take in relation to the recommendations, the Board may require the authority to publish a statement giving details of the recommendations made by the tribunal and of the authority's reasons for not fully implementing the recommendations.

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(6) In this section "the relevant Standards Board" means--
(a) the Standards Board for England where the relevant authority concerned is in England,
(b) the Standards Board for Wales where the relevant authority concerned is in Wales.").

The noble Lord said: We believe that the new ethical framework is not simply about investigating allegations of councillor misconduct and punishing those who are found to breach the code. The new ethical framework is about disseminating good practice, training members, making sure that the internal workings of authorities support ethical behaviour, and clarifying those areas of the new codes of conduct that may be unclear.

In order to help further these wider aims for the new ethical framework, it is necessary for the case tribunals to have the power to make recommendations to relevant authorities. The recommendations could be in respect of issues such as member training, internal organisation, reporting arrangements, and the role of the local authority's standards committee. These are in addition to, and go wider than, its recommendations for the treatment of individual councillors who come before it. The new clause (Amendment No. 358) makes provision for this.

In order to ensure that an authority acts on any recommendations made, the clause also provides that the authority to which the recommendations are made is obliged to consider the recommendations made and must respond within three months specifying whether it proposes to take any action and, if so, what it will be.

If the standards board is not satisfied with that response, provision is made that it may require the authority to publish a statement specifying the recommended action and the reasons for not taking it. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 53 [Disclosure and registration of members' interests etc.]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 359:

    Leave out Clause 53 and insert the following new clause--


(".--(1) Every relevant authority must establish and maintain a register of interests of the members and co-opted members of the authority.
(2) The mandatory provisions of the model code applicable to each relevant authority ("the mandatory provisions") must require the members and co-opted members of each authority to register in that authority's register maintained under subsection (1) such financial and other interests as are specified in the mandatory provisions.
(3) The mandatory provisions must also--
(a) require any member or co-opted member of a relevant authority who has an interest specified in the mandatory provisions under subsection (2) to disclose that interest before taking part in any business of the authority relating to that interest,
(b) make provision for preventing or restricting the participation of a member or co-opted member of a relevant authority in any business of the authority to which an interest disclosed under paragraph (a) relates.

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(4) Any participation by a member or co-opted member of a relevant authority in any business which is prohibited by the mandatory provisions is not a failure to comply with the authority's code of conduct if the member or co-opted member has acted in accordance with a dispensation from the prohibition granted by the authority's standards committee in accordance with regulations made under subsection (5).
(5) The Secretary of State may prescribe in regulations the circumstances in which standards committees may grant dispensations under subsection (4).
(6) Every register maintained under this section must be published and made available for public inspection.
(7) The interests which may be specified under subsection (2) in relation to a member or co-opted member of a relevant authority may include any interests of that member's spouse or partner or any member of that member's household.
(8) In this section "partner", in relation to a member or co-opted member of a relevant authority, means a person to whom the member is not married but with whom the member lives as husband or wife.
(9) The duty of a relevant authority under subsection (1) is to be discharged by the monitoring officer of the relevant authority.").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 359 introduces a new clause to replace the current Clause 53. It sets out important details of how we intend the new ethical framework to operate. In particular, it gives the monitoring officer a clear duty to set up and maintain a public register of members' interests. It also makes provision for the model code of conduct to cover the registration and declaration of interests.

In addition, the new clause enables the standards committee rather than the Secretary of State to grant dispensations for members to participate in business where they have an interest, subject to regulations issued by the Secretary of State. We believe that this is a significant and sensible delegation to those who are best placed to decide such issues so long as there is clear guidance on interpretation.

The amendment also widens the definition of interests that need to be registered and declared to include those of the spouse, partner or any person in that member's household. We believe that this is necessary to take account of the increasing diversity of society today. Bringing the declaration and registration of interests within the model code of conduct will mean that for the first time we will have a single document that clearly sets out a member's duties. One of the key aims of the new framework is to remove the plethora of primary legislation, regulations and guidance that make up the current framework, frequently causing uncertainty, confusion and doubt as to how councillors should behave. The provisions of new Clause 53 should go a long way to clarifying the situation. I beg to move.

Baroness Hamwee moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 359, Amendment No. 359A:

    Line 24, after ("may") insert (", after consultation with such representatives of local government as he considers appropriate,").

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 359A requires the Secretary of State to consult with representatives of local government before making prescriptions in regulations--in this case, as to the circumstances in which standards committees may

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grant dispensations. It may be something of a knee-jerk reaction on my part but I feel that as a matter of general practice, where the Secretary of State is making regulations affecting local government, he should be required to consult with local government first. It may well be that the noble Lord will assure me that this will be done. As we have said on previous occasions, we are legislating for every Secretary of State, not only the current one. Assurances from the Minister as to how the Government intend to proceed would be helpful. I beg to move.

Baroness Hanham: I speak to Amendment No. 359, in particular to subsection (7) of the proposed new clause. I appreciate that the Minister is struggling to ensure that it is inclusive, but all local authorities may struggle with "member's household". Where does one start and finish with "member's household"? Is the nanny included? Is the stepdaughter who is staying for a short time included? Is the fiance who is living there for a year included? It is a very all-embracing phrase. I appreciate the intention behind it, but intentions are not good enough in legislation. We have to be specific so that people are not casting around subsequently for the meaning.

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