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