Memorandum submitted by the Rt Hon John
Major CH MP
I write in response to the Consultation Document
on Proposed Amendments to the Rules relating to the Conduct of
I welcome this consultation since the Rules
have changed substantially from their original purpose. I have
a number of comments.
1. GENERAL COMMENTS
(a) The composition of the Committee on Standards
is not ideal. It would benefit from more legal expertise among
its members and also a Legal Adviser to ensure that judgements
on Parliamentary Resolutions are not stretched beyond their intent
(b) There should be a formal Appeal Procedure
for aggrieved Members who should also have access to legal advice
for any complaint lodged against them;
(c) When an MP is instructed by the Committee
to take action after an investigation, then in every instance
the Parliamentary Resolution he has infringed should be specifically
pointed out to him;
(d) The Rules should not be changed within
a Parliamentary session (as has happened following the Livingstone
Report). I doubt it would be right to bind the Committee for a
full Parliament but we can, at least, prevent "mission creep"
within each session of Parliament.
(e) If the Commissioner judges a complaint
to be frivolous or trivial (of which there has been a number)
the Commissionerfollowing consultation with the Chairmanshould
be empowered to dismiss the complaint immediately.
At present there is a requirement to register
a non-executive Directorship (or membership of an Advisory Board)
but neither the remuneration figure nor an "employment agreement"
is required. This is sensible.
If a Member carries out a number of activities
for a third party (ie press articles, or a series of speeches
for one body) an "employment agreement" is sought by
the Committee. I see no justification for this: it should be sufficient
simply to register the relationship. The requirement for the deposit
of an "employment agreement" is onerous and artificial
(and implies distrust of the word of the Member concerned). The
registration of the remuneration that follows an "employment
agreement" is unnecessary and intrusive and simply provides
the media with ammunition against the Memberand ultimately
the institution of the Commons. This is not what was intended
by the establishment of Nolan. The fact that the relationship
exists is what needs to be knownno more is necessary.
There is even less justification for the submission
of such "agreements" for individual speeches to different
audiences. (If there is a series to the same audienceor
for the same sponsorit might be analogous to a newspaper
column but, even then, my view expressed above remains the same.)
It is simply not credible to require such "agreements"
to be deposited if a Speakers Agency acts as a middleman, since
the contract involving a fee to the Member is with the sponsoring
body for the speechand not with the Agency. The Agency
is paid by the Member.
3. PAID "PARLIAMENTARY
The above term is very vague: what does it mean?
I am a Member who makes speechesmainly abroadabout
international politics and economics.
(a) do not involve advocacy (or ever lead
(b) are to audiences who often believe I
left Parliament on leaving Government;
(c) are currently scheduled for beyond the
end of this Parliament (thus illustrating they are not related
to my membership of the House).
I have never been asked to undertake
Parliamentary actions as a result of these speechesnor
would I ever do so. Yet at present these speeches seem to be regarded
as a "Parliamentary service": emphatically they are
not and this interpretation should be reviewed and guidance
issued that is beyond misunderstanding.
One reason, I believe, for the views the Committee
has taken on speeches is the suspicion that some Members are paidostensibly
for speecheswhen in reality they offer a consultancy. If
this occurs it is a clear breach of the Rules and should be
dealt with severelybut it does not justify undue requirements
on Members who make speeches without providing any form of consulting
services. I suggest that all Members registering speeches should
be required to declare:
(i) that they do not offer consulting services;
(ii) any Parliamentary advocacy of any kind.
Such a requirement should replace the cumbersome,
intrusive and artificial device of lodging an "employment
agreement" where, in reality, none exists.
I am leaving the Commons at the end of this
Parliament andsince I established Nolanam keen to
see the registration system operating effectively and fairly.
It should be able to register interests that should rightly be
known to the Commons, without infringing the legitimate privacy
I would be glad to attend the Committee and
give oral evidence if that would be helpful.
26 October 2000