The Code of Conduct together with The Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members - House of Commons - The Code of Conduct Contents


Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members

Introduction

1. The Code of Conduct provides a set of rules to which Members must adhere.[5] Some of these rules are supported by more detailed guidance. Those set out in this Guide relate to the registration and declaration of interests, and to paid lobbying. The Guide also sets out the procedure for inquiries by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

2. The Guide to the Rules and amendments to it are approved by means of Resolutions of the House of Commons. This Guide therefore carries the authority of the House. The House has agreed that its previous resolutions in relation to the conduct of Members shall be read and given effect in a way which is compatible with the Code of Conduct and this Guide to the Rules relating to the conduct of Members.

3. The Guide is structured as follows:

·  Chapter 1 of the Guide explains the requirements in relation to the registration of Members' financial interests;

·  Chapter 2 explains the requirements in relation to the declaration of interests in proceedings of the House and on other occasions;

·  Chapter 3 sets out the restrictions on Members engaging in lobbying for reward or consideration;

·  Chapter 4 provides an outline of the Commissioner's remit, and sets out the procedures in relation to the Commissioner's inquiries.

REGISTRATION AND DECLARATION OF FINANCIAL INTERESTS (CHAPTERS 1 AND 2)

4. Paragraph 13 of the Code of Conduct provides:

    13. Members shall fulfil conscientiously the requirements of the House in respect of the registration of interests in the Register of Members' Financial Interests. They shall always be open and frank in drawing attention to any relevant interest in any proceeding of the House or its Committees, and in any communications with Ministers, Members, public officials or public office holders.

5. The overall aim of both registration and declaration is to provide information about any financial interest which might reasonably be thought by others to influence a Member's actions, speeches or votes in Parliament, or actions taken in his or her capacity as a Member of Parliament.[6] Financial interests include material benefits and payments in kind.[7] Each Member is responsible for making a full disclosure of such interests, which is achieved by registering and declaring them in accordance with the requirements of the House. The aim of this is openness. Neither registration nor declaration imply any wrongdoing.

6. Registration requires Members to place information about relevant financial interests in the Register of Members' Financial Interests, thus making it available to the public on a continuing basis. In addition, some of the information required for the Register reflects the requirements of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA), as amended. The Electoral Commission extracts the information which it needs from the published Register, or, where the publication timescale of the Register does not permit this, by accessing from the office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards the relevant information provided by Members.

7. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is responsible for preparing the Register, which is published electronically under the authority of the Committee on Standards. A printed version is also produced under the Committee's authority soon after the beginning of each new Parliament and approximately annually thereafter. Entries remain in the Register for twelve months, or until they have appeared in one printed Register if that is later.

8. The Guide sets out the categories in which Members are required to register their financial interests and the information to be provided. These categories are summarised below, together with the financial thresholds which apply. When considering registration, Members are also required to keep in mind the overall purpose of the Register.[8] If a Member has any financial interests which meet that purpose but which do not fall clearly into one of the defined categories, he or she is nonetheless required to register them, normally under the Miscellaneous category.
Category Financial threshold for registration
1. Employment and earnings Over £100 for individual payments.

Over £300 for the total of multiple payments of whatever size from the same source in a calendar year

2. Donations and other support Over £1,500, either as individual payment, or for the total of multiple donations of more than £500 from the same source in the course of a calendar year
3. Gifts, benefits and hospitality from UK sources Over £300 for the total of benefits of whatever size from the same source in a calendar year
4. Visits outside the UK Over £300 if not wholly borne by Member or public funds

Threshold also applies to the total of benefits of whatever size from the same source in a calendar year

5. Gifts and benefits from sources outside the UK Over £300 for the total of benefits of whatever size from the same source in a calendar year
6. Land and property in the UK and elsewhere Total value of property held: over £100,000 Income derived from property: over £10,000 in a calendar year
7. ShareholdingsGreater than 15% of issued share capital (on preceding 5 April), or if 15% or less of issued share capital (on preceding 5 April), greater in value than £70,000
8. MiscellaneousNo threshold
9. Family members employed and remunerated through parliamentary expenses Remuneration of over £700 in a calendar year
10. Family members engaged in lobbying No threshold

9. The requirement for the declaration of interests, set out in Chapter 2, applies in almost every aspect of a Member's activities, in the Chamber, in Committee and in their contacts with others, including Ministers, other Members, public officials and public office holders. It covers, as well as registrable interests, other financial interests which meet the test of relevance but which do not require registration, including past interests and expected future interests and the indirect financial interests of a spouse, partner or family member. Members may also declare non-financial interests if they consider these meet the same test of relevance. The test is whether those interests might reasonably be thought by others to influence his or her actions or words as a Member.

10. Members are not required to register or declare benefits available to all Members, such as their parliamentary salaries, or expenses met from parliamentary sources, or from a scheme for parliamentary expenses. Nor are they required to register or declare benefits provided by their own political party, except as required under registration Category 2: Donations and other support for activities as a Member of Parliament.

LOBBYING FOR REWARD OR CONSIDERATION (CHAPTER 3)

11. Paragraph 11 of the Code of Conduct provides:

    11. No Member shall act as a paid advocate in any proceeding of the House.

12. A Member may, however, still hold a remunerated outside interest as a director, consultant or adviser or in any other capacity. Members who receive such financial benefits may take part in parliamentary proceedings or in meetings and discussions with Ministers, other Members and public officials, which could affect that interest, provided they do so in accordance with the provisions set out in Chapter 3 of this Guide. But such Members must not initiate proceedings or meetings which would provide a financial or material benefit to any organisation or individual from whom they have received, are receiving or expect to receive reward or consideration.

PROCEDURE FOR INQUIRIES (CHAPTER 4)

13. Paragraphs 17 and 18 of the Code of Conduct provide:

    17. The application of this Code shall be a matter for the House of Commons, and particularly for the Committee on Standards and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards acting in accordance with Standing Orders Nos 149 and 150 respectively.

    18. The Commissioner may investigate a specific matter relating to a Member's adherence to the rules of conduct under the Code. Members shall cooperate, at all stages, with any such investigation by or under the authority of the House. No Member shall lobby a member of the Committee in a manner calculated or intended to influence its consideration of an alleged breach of this Code.

14. Allegations about failure to register or declare a relevant interest in accordance with the rules of the House, failure to abide by the rules on lobbying for reward or consideration, or any other alleged failure to meet the rules set out in the Code of Conduct are considered by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards who reports to the Committee on Standards.

15. Complaints about the misuse of the scheme for parliamentary expenses since May 2010 are a matter for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. However, if the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority or its Compliance Officer consider that a Member's conduct justifies it, they shall refer that Member, with the relevant evidence, to the Commissioner for him or her to decide whether to inquire into a potential breach of the Code of Conduct and its associated rules.

MINISTERS OF THE CROWN

16. Ministers of the Crown who are Members of the House of Commons are subject to the rules on registration and declaration of interests in the same way as all other Members (although Ministerial office is not registrable and salaried Ministers may still speak in support of Government policies without breaching the restrictions on lobbying for reward or consideration). Members are not required to register either Ministerial office or benefits received in their capacity as a Minister. But Ministers are subject to the further guidelines and requirements laid down by successive Prime Ministers in the Ministerial Code, available from the Cabinet Office. These are not enforced by the House of Commons and so are beyond the scope of this Guide.

SOURCES OF ADVICE

17. No written guidance can provide for all circumstances, and the references in this Guide should not be regarded as exhaustive. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards ("the Commissioner") and the Registrar of Members' Financial Interests ("the Registrar") are available to give advice, as is the Electoral Commission as regards the permissibility of donations and the requirements of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA).[9]

COMMENCEMENT

18. The provisions of this Guide apply to all actions by or required of the Member from the commencement date or dates of the Guide agreed by the House. Actions undertaken by or requirements of Members before that commencement date or dates are governed by the previous version of the Guide in force at the material time.


5   Members are personally responsible for their adherence to the Code including when breaches may have been caused by the actions of a member of staff. Back

6   This reflects the recommendations in the First Report of the Select Committee on Members' Interests, Session 1991-92, Registration and Declaration of Financial Interests, HC 236, paragraph 72. Back

7   The terms "financial interests" should be read in this way throughout this Guide. Back

8   The purpose of the Register is set out as paragraph 5 above. Back

9   Please contact the Electoral Commission on 020 7271 0616. Back


 
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© Parliamentary copyright 2015
Prepared 14 April 2015