Select Committee on Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Report


I am pleased to present my fourth annual report to the House.

Standards in public life were much in the headlines as the year covered by this report came to a close. What put them there, however, were not scandals in Parliament but concerns about party funding and the application of the separate Code of Conduct for Ministers (the Ministerial Code) promulgated by the Prime Minister. As I write, various inquiries are underway into party funding and new arrangements for advising Ministers on potential conflicts of interest have been introduced by the Government.

On the Parliamentary front, the situation has been more positive. The number of complaints falling within the scope of the Code of Conduct and the Guide to the Rules is down. Although there can never be cause for complacency, the past year has seen, in the words of Sir Alistair Graham, Chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, "a maturing of the regulatory systems in Parliament" which his committee helped set up.[1] The Code of Conduct for Members has been reviewed and the outcome approved by the House, and a review of the Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members is now underway. The General Election of 2005 was followed by a major effort to brief new and returning Members of the House on their ethical responsibilities. Details of these and other initiatives are given later in this report.

2005 also saw the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Parliamentary standards arrangements of which my office forms part. Over the past 10 years, those arrangements have gradually been strengthened to the point where, I believe, they can fairly be said to provide a robust and impartial means of investigating complaints and seeking to prevent wrong-doing. I pay tribute to my two predecessors and to successive chairmen, members and clerks of the Committee on Standards and Privileges for this outcome. As the independent Committee on Standards in Public Life has confirmed, standards of conduct in the House of Commons are generally high, and, I would add, bear favourable comparison with those in many other countries.[2]

I was able to take advantage of an invitation to deliver the Frank Stacey memorial lecture in September 2005 to reflect on the progress made and on the challenges ahead.[3]

More remains to be done, as I describe in this report. With the continued commitment of Members and the House authorities to building the credibility of Parliament's standards machinery, however, there is real encouragement that there will be further progress in the future.

18 July 2006   Sir Philip Mawer

1   Address by Sir Alistair to an open meeting of his Committee, 9 March 2006  Back

2   Cm 5663, para 2.7 Back

3   The text of the lecture is reproduced at Appendix 3 to this report Back

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Prepared 25 July 2006