The Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) is an advisory non-departmental public body of the United Kingdom Government, established by John Major in 1994 to advise the Prime Minister on ethical standards of public life. It promotes a code of conduct called the Seven Principles of Public Life, also known as the Nolan principles after the first chairman of the committee, Lord Nolan.

Function

The Committee on Standards in Public Life is an independent advisory non-departmental public body,[1] with a secretariat and budget provided by the Cabinet Office. The committee advises and makes recommendations to the prime minister on ethical standards in public life.[2] It can conduct inquiries and collect evidence to assess institutions, policies and practices.[2]

It is formally responsible for:[3]

The Committee does not investigate individual allegations of misconduct, that being the role of the relevant regulator.

Seven Principles of Public life

The committee promotes a code of conduct for those in public life called the Seven Principles of Public Life or the Nolan Principles:[4][5][6][7]

These Seven Principles apply to anyone who works as a public office holder including:[5]

Influence

The Seven Principles of Public Life have proved influential and are enshrined in codes of conduct across the UK public sector, from schools and government departments to hospitals.[9] They are incorporated into a variety of government-related codes including the Ministerial Code, the Civil Service Code, the Civil Service Management Code, and the House of Lords Code of Conduct.[10][11] Many local authorities, charities and educational and healthcare bodies adhere to the principles, including – to cite just a few examples – Oxfordshire County Council,[12] the University of Exeter,[13] the University of Nottingham,[14] the NHS Board,[15] the National Trust,[16] and the Good Governance Institute.[9] The principles have also been important in informing ethics debates internationally.[17]

Members

The Committee consists of a chair, four independent members and three political members. The chair and independent members are appointed by the Prime Minister for a single five-year term, following an open competition regulated by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments (OCPA). The political members, nominated by the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat political parties, are appointed for three years with the possibility of reappointment.[18]

Position Current holder Appointed Term Ref
Chair The Lord Evans of Weardale KCB DL 25 October 2018 5 years [19]
Member The Rt Hon. Dame Margaret Beckett DBE MP (Labour Party) 1 November 2010 (last reappointed 31 October 2019) 3 years [20]
Member The Rt Hon. The Lord Stunell Kt OBE PC (Liberal Democrats) 1 December 2016 (last reappointed 1 December 2019) 3 years [20]
Member Dame Shirley Pearce DBE 13 March 2018 5 years [21]
Member The Rt Hon. Jeremy Wright QC MP (Conservative Party) 21 November 2019 3 years [20]
Member Professor Gillian Peele 1 August 2021 5 years [22]
Member Ewen Fergusson 1 August 2021 5 years [22]
Member vacant 5 years [20]

History

The Committee was initially established in October 1994 by the Prime Minister, John Major, in response to concerns that the conduct of some politicians was unethical - for example, during the cash-for-questions affair.[23]

1994 terms of reference

The Committee's original terms of reference were "To examine current concerns about standards of conduct of all holders of public office, including arrangements relating to financial and commercial activities, and make recommendations as to any changes in present arrangements which might be required to ensure the highest standards of propriety in public life".[24][25]

First report, 1995

The Committee's first report[26] in 1995 established an initial version of The Seven Principles of Public Life, also known as the Nolan Principles after the committee's first chairman. The principles were Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty and Leadership.[26]

1997 change of remit - funding of political parties

As Tony Blair had announced in 1996, referring back to the Neil Hamilton and Cash-for-questions affair,[27] the committee's terms of reference were extended in November 1997. The committee's new remit included "To review issues in relation to the funding of political parties, and to make recommendations as to any changes in present arrangements."[28][25]

2013 change of remit - devolved assemblies

In February 2013, the committee's terms of reference were amended to specify that "…in future the Committee should not inquire into matters relating to the devolved legislatures and governments except with the agreement of those bodies".[25] In June of that year the committee was included on a list of 200 organisations that the UK government claimed may need to be replicated in the event of Scottish Independence.[29]

2013 change of remit - non-elected and non-appointed officials

The Committee's remit was also expanded in February 2013 to cover standards of conduct of all holders of public office, not solely those appointed or elected to public office, including all those involved in the delivery of public services.[30] It was later clarified that the committee "can examine issues relating to the ethical standards of the delivery of public services by private and voluntary sector organisations, paid for by public funds, even where those delivering the services have not been appointed or elected to public office."[25]

2021 review

In September 2020 the committee commenced a detailed review into processes in Westminster. In its interim and final reports of July and November 2021 it noted that transparency relating to lobbying was "poor", and it recommended tightening up the rules governing the conduct of ministers and senior civil servants.[31] A survey conducted by the committee found that the COVID-19 pandemic had exposed poor behaviour by politicians, including breaches of lockdown rules and the awarding of public procurement contracts to ministers' friends. Survey participants were said to be "visibly angry as they recounted the strict pandemic rules they had to follow, which they believed were disregarded by various politicians who subsequently faced few or no consequences."[32] The committee's final report found the effectiveness of ethics regulators in Whitehall had "not kept pace with wider changes" and that there was a "particular need for reform in central government". Lord Evans called for more power to be given to the independent adviser on ministerial standards, and for these stronger rules to be written into law.[31]

2021 concerns about appointments to the committee

In 2021 the committee's only non-white member Monisha Shah came to the end of her five-year appointment to the committee, and on 1 August new members Ewen Fergusson and Gillian Peele were appointed. The committee's chair, Lord Evans, wrote to the Cabinet Office minister reporting concerns about the committee's "lack of visible diversity now as a group"[2] and said that the watchdog "needs to be representative of the people we serve."[33] The appointment of Ewen Fergusson was criticised as "cronyism" by the Labour Party as he had been a member of the Bullingdon Club at Oxford at the same time as Boris Johnson.[34] Former committee chair Sir Alistair Graham attacked the appointment as a "pathetic" attempt to recruit an old friend of the Prime Minister to an independent committee.[35]

List of past committee chairs

References

  1. ^ "Code of Practice" (PDF). Committee on Standards in Public Life. Retrieved 29 November 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Allegretti, Aubrey (23 August 2021). "Chair of Whitehall sleaze watchdog laments lack of diversity on panel". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 October 2021.
  3. ^ "About us". Committee on Standards in Public Life. Retrieved 7 January 2022.
  4. ^ "The Seven Principles of Public Life". GOV.UK. Committee on Standards in Public Life. 31 May 1995. Retrieved 29 November 2021.
  5. ^ a b Committee on Standards in Public Life: Annual Report 2017-18", p. 2
  6. ^ "The Nolan Principles". www.isi.net. Independent Schools Inspectorate. Retrieved 29 November 2021.
  7. ^ "7 Principles of Public Life". www.salfordccg.nhs.uk. Salford CCG. Retrieved 29 November 2021.
  8. ^ Leadership wording updated in November 2021: "Amending the descriptor to leadership – reinforcing a culture of respect for one another". Gov.uk. 5 November 2021. Retrieved 24 November 2021.
  9. ^ a b "The Nolan principles". The Good Governance Institute. 1 June 2020. Retrieved 7 January 2022.
  10. ^ "The importance of values and of the principles behind the Rules". www.parliament.uk. 21 April 2017. Retrieved 7 January 2022.
  11. ^ "Amendments To The Code And Guide To The Code". www.parliament.uk. 2014. Retrieved 7 January 2022.
  12. ^ "Achieving good corporate governance". Oxfordshire County Council. June 2020. Retrieved 7 January 2022.
  13. ^ "Appendix to the Code of conduct for staff and Prevention of bribery and other improper conduct: Guidance for Colleges and Services". University of Exeter. Retrieved 7 January 2022.
  14. ^ "The University of Nottingham Ethical Framework". University of Nottingham. February 2020. Retrieved 7 January 2022.
  15. ^ "Ethical standards for NHS Board Members in England" (PDF). Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence. October 2011. Retrieved 7 January 2022.
  16. ^ "Governance Handbook" (PDF). National Trust. December 2016. Retrieved 7 January 2022.
  17. ^ Behnke, Nathalie (January 2003). "A Nolan Committee for the German ethics infrastructure?". European Journal of Political Research. 41 (5): 675–708. doi:10.1111/1475-6765.00026.
  18. ^ Committee on Standards in Public Life: Annual Report 2017-18", p. 16
  19. ^ "Press Release: Prime Minister appoints Lord Evans of Weardale as Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life". Gov.uk. 25 October 2018. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  20. ^ a b c d "Committee on Standards in Public Life". UK Government. Retrieved 7 January 2022.
  21. ^ Committee on Standards in Public Life: Annual Report 2017-18", p. 19
  22. ^ a b "Professor Gillian Peele and Ewen Fergusson to join the Committee on Standards in Public Life". Gov.uk. 15 July 2021. Retrieved 24 November 2021.
  23. ^ Leopold (2004). p. 417.
  24. ^ House of Commons Library, Committee on Standards in Public Life, SN/PC/04888, 11 November 2008
  25. ^ a b c d "Committee on Standards in Public Life: Terms of reference". GOV.UK. Retrieved 29 November 2021.
  26. ^ a b First Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (1995). p. 14.
  27. ^ Macaskill, Ewen (2 October 1996). "Blair's promise - Everyone can be a winner". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 November 2021.
  28. ^ Annual Report 2010–11 (2011). p. 14.
  29. ^ "Scottish independence: The 200 bodies 'needed post-independence'". BBC News. 21 June 2013. Retrieved 24 November 2021.
  30. ^ "Terms of reference". Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  31. ^ a b Scott, Jennifer (1 November 2021). "Toughen up rules on ministers' conduct, says standards watchdog". BBC News. Retrieved 24 November 2021.
  32. ^ Christopher, McKeon (1 November 2021). "Public 'visibly angry' over Covid scandals, sleaze watchdog finds". The Evening Standard. Retrieved 25 November 2021.
  33. ^ Woodcock, Andrew (23 August 2021). "Diversity warning over sleaze watchdog after appointment of PM's university friend leaves it all-white". The Independent. Retrieved 19 October 2021.
  34. ^ BBC (16 July 2021). "Boris Johnson's university friend gets ethics watchdog role". BBC/news. Retrieved 16 July 2021.
  35. ^ Syal, Rajeev (15 July 2021). "Ex-Bullingdon Club member appointed to Whitehall's sleaze watchdog". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 November 2021.
  36. ^ a b c d e "Appointment of Lord Evans of Weardale as Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life". publications.parliament.uk. Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee - House of Commons. Retrieved 29 November 2021. Includes list of previous chairs as section 8
  37. ^ "New Chair appointed to the Committee on Standands in Public Life". Number10.gov.uk. 24 April 2007. Archived from the original on 8 December 2009. Retrieved 13 December 2021.
  38. ^ Annual Report 2010–11 (2011). p. 16.
  39. ^ "Prime Minister appoints new committee chairs" (Press release). Cabinet Office; Prime Minister's Office. 28 October 2018.

Bibliography