Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence



Section 1


  1.  Ministers of the Crown are expected to behave according to the highest standards of constitutional and personal conduct in the performance of their duties. In particular, they must observe the following principles of Ministerial conduct:

    (i)  Ministers must uphold the principle of collective responsibility;

    (ii)  Ministers have a duty to Parliament to account, and be held to account, for the policies, decisions and actions of their Departments and Next Steps Agencies;

    (iii)  it is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister;

    (iv)  Ministers should be as open as possible with Parliament and the public, refusing to provide information only when disclosure would not be in the public interest, which should be decided in accordance with relevant statute and the Government's Code of Practice and Access to Government Information (Second Edition, January 1997);

    (v)  Similarly, Ministers should require civil servants who give evidence before Parliamentary Committees on their behalf and under their directions to be as helpful as possible in providing accurate, truthful and full information in accordance with the duties and responsibilities of civil servants as set out in the Civil Service Code (January 1996);

    (vi)  Ministers must ensure that no conflict arises, or appears to arise, between their public duties and their private interests;

    (vii)  Ministers should avoid accepting any gift or hospitality which might, or might reasonably appear to, compromise their judgement or place them under an improper obligation;

    (viii)  Ministers in the House of Commons must keep separate their role as Minister and constituency Member; and

    (ix)  Ministers must not use resources for party political purposes. They must uphold the political impartiality of the Civil Service, and not ask civil servants to act in any way which would conflict with the Civil Service Code.

  These notes detail the arrangements for the conduct of affairs by Ministers. They are intended to give guidance by listing the principles and the precedents which may apply. They apply to all Members of the Government (the position of Parliamentary Private Secretaries is described separately in section 4). The notes should be read against the background of the duty of Ministers to comply with the law, including international law and treaty obligations, and to uphold the administration of justice, the general obligations listed above; and in the context of protecting the integrity of public life. Ministers must also, of course, adhere at all times to the requirements parliament has itself laid down. For Ministers in the Commons, these are set by the Resolution carried on 19 March 1997 (Official Report, columns 1946-47): the terms of the Resolution are repeated at (ii) to (v) above. For Ministers in the Lords, Official Report col 1057. It will be for individual Ministers to judge how best to act in order to uphold the highest standards. They are responsible for justifying their conduct to Parliament and they can only remain in office for so long as they retain the Prime Minister's confidence.

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