Committee on Standards in Public Life
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Committee on standards in public life - annual report
The Committee on Standards in Public Life today published its annual report for 2007 -2008.
Launching the report at the Committee's third Open meeting in London, Sir Christopher Kelly, Committee Chairman said:
"It is very clear that there are major areas of unfinished business which continue to give us concern. The first is MPs' expenses and allowances. Whatever your view of the personal integrity in financial matters of Members of Parliament, it is clear that they are not well served by reimbursement arrangements which appear to be less transparent and less rigorous than those for other public office holders or in the private sector. My Committee initially welcomed Parliament's decision to instigate a root and branch review of the allowance system but we were less impressed by the decision that the review should be conducted by a committee of parliamentarians without an independent element. However conscientiously they undertake their task, it is difficult to see how the results can be expected to command full public confidence. If the opportunity is missed to undertake a truly fundamental review of the systems for reimbursing Members of Parliament, the outcome may simply give rise to greater distrust of the political class. My Committee will be taking a close interest in the outcome of the House's current deliberations.
"Secondly, party political funding. Few things have been more corrosive in recent years to public trust in politicians and the political process than the perception that financial support to a political party can buy influence or personal advancement. It is deeply disappointing that independent attempts to bring about all-party agreement on much needed reform of party funding have clearly broken down. This cannot be good for trust in politics and politicians and it is essential that a further attempt should soon be made to resolve the issue. This will require willingness by more than one party to compromise in the public interest on some deeply entrenched positions. If the current stalemate persists, my Committee may wish to take its own look at the issues, which fall directly within its terms of reference.
"The third area which continues to give us concern is electoral registration. Our 11th report highlighted problems with the vulnerability to fraud of our electoral system because of the combination of household registration and the introduction of postal voting on demand. Since then, well-reported instances of voting fraud in Peterborough, Burnley and Slough have increased our concern. And the Council of Europe has come close to triggering its special monitoring processes for United Kingdom elections - a process more usually employed for parts of the former Soviet Union or African states. We put forward a strong case and a sensible timetable for the introduction of individual voter registration, but no progress has been made. Electoral fraud is not a trivial matter. It is an affront to the democratic process and, left unchecked, will undermine confidence in the outcome of elections.
"The annual report also gives details of a number of other areas on which the Committee will continue to monitor closely:
* potential problems in the accountability and governance arrangements in London, which emerged during the run up to the Mayoral and Assembly Elections earlier this year
* implications for standards of behaviour being created by the Freedom of Information Act, especially in the light of recent important judgments by the Information Commissioner, Information Tribunal and High Court and
* the fact that the independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests continues to lack powers to instigate investigations into alleged breaches of the Ministerial Code at his own discretion. They are still dependent on a request from the Prime Minister. We regard this limitation as a serious weakness and will monitor whether the current half-way house arrangement can actually work in practice.
"Given concern in all these areas, I have no doubt that the need for the existence of the Committee on Standards in Public Life is as strong as ever. I am determined to continue to uphold the example set by my predecessors on this Committee in maintaining our resolute independence, in producing evidence based analysis and in willingness to speak truth to power."
Notes to Editors
1. Copies of the Committee's annual report are available from http://email@example.com or Tel: 0207 276 2595.
2. The Committee's standing terms of reference are: "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".
3. On 12 November 1997 additional terms of reference for the study on the funding of political parties were announced by the then Prime Minister as: "To review issues in relation to the funding of political parties, and to make recommendations as to arrangements." The Committee's terms of reference specifically preclude it from investigating individual cases or specific allegations of misconduct. Nor has the Committee any powers to require others to do so. But the Committee may take account of information on material cases in formulating its recommendations.
4. The full current membership of the Committee is: Sir Christopher Kelly KCB (Chair), Lloyd Clarke QPM, Oliver Heald MP, Sir Derek Morris MA Dphil, Dame Patricia Hodgson DBE, Baroness Maddock, The Rt Hon Alun Michael JP MP, Dr Elizabeth Vallance JP and Dr Brian Woods-Scawen DL CBE
The Committee on Standards in Public Life
35 Great Smith Street
Further information from:
Secretary to the Committee
Assistant Secretary to the Committee
Committee on Standards
in Public Life
35 Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3BQ