Part 1: Amendments To The Code And Guide
To The Code |
The seven principles of public life
4. The seven principles of public life (the "Nolan
principles") are incorporated in paragraph 9 of the House
of Lords Code of Conduct and provide the context within which
the Code is read and implemented. The Committee on Standards in
Public Life has reviewed the seven principles and concluded that
the terms in which they are described could usefully be updated.
The revised descriptions are in Box 1.
Revised descriptions of the seven principles
of public life
|Selflessness: Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.
Integrity: Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.
Objectivity: Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.
Accountability: Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.
Openness: Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.
Honesty: Holders of public office should be truthful.
Leadership: Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.
5. We recommend that the revised descriptions
of the seven principles of public life should be included in paragraph
9 of the Code of Conduct in place of the existing descriptions.
6. Paragraph 9 of the Code requires members to
observe these principles, and states that they are taken into
consideration when any allegation of breach of other sections
of the Code is under investigation.
We believe that the principles are also a guide to Members in
meeting the requirement in paragraph 8(b) of the Code to act always
on their personal honour, and so we recommend the addition
of the following words at the end of the second sentence in paragraph
9 of the Code: "and should act as a guide to Members in considering
the requirement to act always on their personal honour."
The opening sentences of paragraph 9 of the Code would therefore
read as follows (new text in bold):
"9. Members of the House should observe
the seven general principles of conduct identified by the Committee
on Standards in Public Life. These principles will be taken into
consideration when any allegation of breaches of the provisions
in other sections of the Code is under investigation and should
act as a guide to Members in considering the requirement to act
always on their personal honour."
Paragraph 9 of the Code would then set out the new
descriptions of the seven general principles of conduct as set
out in paragraph 4 of this report.
Clear willingness to breach the Code
7. The Guide to the Code discusses the term "personal
honour" in paragraphs 7 and 8 and explains that Members are
required to act always on their personal honour. However, this
raises the question of what precisely constitutes an "act".
In 2009 we concluded that "Members who express a clear willingness
to breach the Code of Conduct demonstrate a failure of "personal
honour", and are thus in breach of paragraph 4(b) of the
Code." The House
endorsed that conclusion.
The issue of personal honour again arose in four recent cases
considered by the Commissioner for Standards; and two Members
were suspended from the service of the House because they were
found to have demonstrated a clear willingness to negotiate an
agreement which would have involved breaching the Code.
We believe that it would be helpful for the Guide to be clear
about these findings and so we recommend that the following
sentence, which does not express a new principle but codifies
existing practice, should be added after paragraph 7 of the Guide
to the Code:
"A member who expresses a clear willingness
to breach the Code (for example by attempting to negotiate an
agreement to provide parliamentary services in return for payment)
demonstrates a failure to act on his or her personal honour, and
is thus in breach of paragraph 8(b) of the Code."
8. Significant concern about lobbying of Members,
and about lobbying by Members, has been expressed in the media
in recent times. This concern is reflected in the GRECO report,
which recommends "that the Codes of Conduct and the guidance
for both the Commons and the Lords be reviewed in order to ensure
that the Members of both Houses (and their staff) have appropriate
standards/guidance for dealing with lobbyists and others whose
intent is to sway public policy on behalf of specific interests".
The matter was also addressed in a recent report from the Committee
on Standards in Public Life on lobbying.
We believe that Members would welcome a statement of principles
on how to deal with lobbyists. We therefore recommend that
the following paragraphs should be inserted in the Guide to the
Code after paragraph 30:
"Dealing with lobbyists
30A The Committee on Standards in Public Life
has concluded that lobbying has an important part to play in securing
"the democratic right to make representations to government
and to have access to the policymaking process [which] is fundamental
to the proper conduct of public life and the development of sound
Many organisations play an important role in informing members
of the House of Lords. However, some lobbying can give rise to
a suspicion of improper influence over Parliament. Members must
have regard to such public perceptions. Members' dealings with
lobbyists should always be governed by the principles of integrity
30B Members should take particular care not to
give the impression of giving greater weight to representations
because they come from paid lobbyists; representations should
be given such weight as they deserve based on their intrinsic
merit. Members must in their dealings with lobbyists observe the
prohibitions on paid advocacy and on the provision of parliamentary
advice or services for payment or other reward. Members should
decline all but the most insignificant or incidental hospitality,
benefit or gift offered by a lobbyist."
9. We have also identified an apparent anomaly
in paragraph 21 of the Guide to the Code, which elaborates on
the prohibition on Members providing parliamentary services in
return for payment or other reward. As currently drafted it prohibits
Members from setting up a meeting with a view to someone else
lobbying ministers or officials, but it does not explicitly prohibit
Members themselves lobbying ministers or officials in return for
payment or other incentive or reward. We do not believe this loophole
was intended when the prohibition on providing parliamentary services
in return for payment was introduced in the 2010 Code. In addition,
recent cases on which we have reported indicate that some Members
seemed to believe that providing parliamentary services in return
for payment is within the rules so long as it is registered and,
where appropriate, declared. That is evidently not the case, but
for the sake of clarity we propose additional words at the end
of the paragraph. We recommend the following amendments to
paragraph 21 of the Guide to the Code of Conduct (deleted
words struck out; new text in bold)
"21. The prohibition
on accepting payment in return for parliamentary
services means that Members may not, in return for payment
or other incentive or reward, assist outside organisations or
persons in influencing Parliament
Members of either House, ministers or officials. This includes
seeking by means of participation in proceedings of the House
to confer exclusive benefit upon the organisation (the "no
paid advocacy rule"); or making use of their position to
arrange meetings with a view to any
person lobbying lobby, or to help
others to lobby, Members of either House, ministers or officials,
by whatever means. A Member may never provide parliamentary
services in return for payment or other incentive or reward (regardless
of whether the Member intends to register and declare the interest)."
Threshold for registration of gifts, benefits
10. The Committee on Standards in Public Life
and GRECO both invite the House to consider lowering the threshold
for registering gifts. We see merit in this suggestion and we
recommend that the threshold for the registration of gifts,
benefits and hospitality to Members from third parties should
be reduced from £500 to £140. This would bring it
into line with the threshold in the Ministerial Code.
Threshold for registration of shareholdings
11. We have considered a suggestion from GRECO
that the threshold for the registration of shareholdings in any
public or private company should be reduced. The current threshold
for such registration is any shareholding which either (a) amounts
to a controlling interest, or (b) does not amount to a controlling
interest but which exceeds £50,000 in value. We have reviewed
the matter carefully and have found no evidence that this threshold
gives rise to any misgivings. We therefore recommend no change.
Registration of gifts, benefits and hospitality
available to all Members
12. At present benefits available to all Members,
such as concessions offered by the Houses of Parliament Travel
Office, must be registered. We do not believe that such registration
is necessary since such benefits cannot reasonably be considered
to influence all Members in the conduct of their parliamentary
duties. Moreover, one purpose of registration and declaration
of interests is to inform Members of the interests of other Members
so that they can make informed judgments about what is said in
debate. Given that Members are already aware of such interests
in the case of benefits available to all of them, no purpose is
served by the present rule. The House of Commons does not have
an equivalent rule, and we think it desirable for the two Houses
to be in step on this matter. We recommend therefore that the
last sentence in paragraph 72 of the Guide be deleted and replaced
"A gift or benefit available to all Members
should not be registered."
4 A complaint will not be entertained solely on the
basis of alleged failure to abide by the seven principles: see
paragraph 10 of the Guide to the Code of Conduct. Back
Committee for Privileges, The Conduct of Lord Moonie, Lord
Snape, Lord Truscott and Lord Taylor of Blackburn (2nd report,
2008-09, HL Paper 88), paragraph 30. Back
LJ (2008-09) 537. Back
Committee for Privileges and Conduct, The Conduct of Lord Mackenzie
of Framwellgate (9th report, 2013-14, HL Paper 95); The
Conduct of Lord Laird (10th report, 2013-14, HL Paper 96).
Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate was found also to have actually
breached the code. Back
Op. cit., paragraph 53. Back
Committee on Standards in Public Life, Strengthening Transparency
Around Lobbying, November 2013: http://www.public-standards.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/2901376_LobbyingStandards_WEB.pdf Back
Sixth report from the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Reinforcing
Standards: review of the First Report of the Committee on Standards
in Public Life, Cm 4557-I, January 2000, paragraph 7.10. Back