Working Group Report on Standards of Conduct in the House of Lords Report


Annex 1

PROPOSED CODE OF CONDUCT FOR MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF LORDS

  Note: the words in square brackets in paragraphs 11, 12 and 13 were included in the proposed code by a majority vote of the Group appointed by the Leader of the House to consider the recommendations of the Committee on Standards in Public Life on standards of conduct in the House of Lords.

Purpose of the Code

  1.  The purpose of this Code of Conduct is:

    —  to provide guidance for Members of the House of Lords on the standards of conduct expected of them in the discharge of their parliamentary and public duties;

    —  to provide the openness and accountability necessary to reinforce public confidence in the way in which Members of the House of Lords perform their parliamentary and public duties.

  2.  This Code applies to all Members of the House of Lords who have not taken leave of absence.

Public duty

  3.  By virtue of their oath, or affirmation, of allegiance, Members of the House have a duty to be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen, her heirs and successors, according to law.

Personal conduct

  4.  Members of the House:

    —  must comply with the Code of Conduct;

    —  should act always on their personal honour;

    —  must never accept any financial inducement as an incentive or reward for exercising parliamentary influence;

    —  must not vote on any bill or motion, or ask any question in the House or a committee, or promote any matter, in return for payment or any other material benefit (the "no paid advocacy" rule).

  5.  Members of the House should observe the general principles of conduct identified by the Committee on Standards in Public Life.[33]

Primacy of the public interest

  6.  In the conduct of their parliamentary duties, Members of the House shall resolve any conflict between their personal interest and the public interest in favour of the public interest.

REGISTRATION AND DECLARATION OF RELEVANT INTERESTS

  7.  Members of the House must:

    —  register in the Register of Lords' Interests all relevant interests, in order to make clear what are the interests that might reasonably be thought to influence their actions;

    —  declare when speaking in the House, or communicating with ministers, government departments or executive agencies, any interest which is a relevant interest in the context of the debate or the matter under discussion. This is necessary in order that their audience may form a balanced judgment of their arguments. In cases where Members of the House vote in a division where they have a relevant interest that they have not been able to declare, they should register that interest within 24 hours of the division.

What is a relevant interest?

  8.  The test of relevant interest is whether the interest might reasonably be thought by the public to affect the way in which a Member of the House of Lords discharges his or her parliamentary duties.

  9.  The test of relevant interest is therefore not whether a Member's actions in Parliament will be influenced by the interest, but whether the public might reasonably think that this might be the case.

  10.  Relevant interests include both financial and non-financial interests.

Relevant financial interests

  11.  The following financial interests are always relevant and therefore must be registered:

    —  any consultancy agreement under which Members of the House provide parliamentary advice or services;

A copy of any such agreement [and the remuneration received by Members for advice in relation to parliamentary matters] must be deposited with the Registrar of Lords' Interests, so that details are available for public inspection.

    —  employment or any other financial interest in businesses involved in parliamentary lobbying on behalf of clients, including public relations and law firms;[34]

    —  any remunerated service which Members of the House provide by virtue of their position as members of Parliament, and the clients of any such service;

    —  [employment as a non-parliamentary consultant;]

    —  remunerated directorships;

    —  regular remunerated employment (excluding occasional income from speeches, lecturing, broadcasting and journalism);

    —  [shareholdings amounting to a controlling interest;]

    —  provision by an outside body of secretarial and research assistance;

    —  visits with costs paid in the United Kingdom and overseas, made as a member of Parliament.

  12.  The list in paragraph 11 above is not exhaustive. For example, relevant financial interests may also include (depending on their significance):

    —  [shareholdings not amounting to a controlling interest;]

    —  [landholdings (excluding Members' homes);]

    —  the financial interests of a spouse or relative [or friend];

    —  hospitality or gifts given to a Member which could reasonably be regarded as an incentive to support a particular cause or interest.

  13.  [Except for remuneration received by Members for advice in relation to parliamentary matters,] Members of the House are not required to disclose how much they earn from the financial interests set out in paragraphs 11 and 12 [but they may do so if they wish].

Relevant non-financial interests

  14.  The following non-financial interests are always relevant and therefore must be registered:

    —  membership of public bodies such as hospital trusts, the governing bodies of universities, colleges and schools, and local authorities;

    —  trusteeships of museums, galleries or similar bodies;

    —  acting as an office-holder or trustee in pressure groups or trade unions;

    —  acting as an office-holder or trustee in voluntary or not-for-profit organisations.

  15.  The list in paragraph 14 above is not exhaustive. For example, relevant non-financial interests may also include (depending on their significance):

    —  other trusteeships;

    —  unpaid membership of voluntary organisations.

  16.  Members of the House are not obliged to register membership of Churches, religious bodies and quasi-religious organisations. But it may be necessary to declare such interests (see paragraph 7).

Advice

  17.  The Registrar is available to advise Members of the House. A Member who acts on the advice of the Registrar in determining what is a relevant interest satisfies fully the requirements of the Code of Conduct.

Enforcement of the Code of Conduct

  18.  Allegations of non-compliance with this Code are dealt with as follows:

      1.  Any allegation should normally be raised first with the Member complained against. However, there may be circumstances when it is more appropriate to raise the matter with a party Leader or Chief Whip, or the Convenor of the Cross Benches.

      2.  If the complainant chooses to pursue the matter, he or she should refer the allegation directly to the Sub-Committee on Lords' Interests, through its chairman.

      3.  The Sub-Committee will then examine the allegation and may decide to investigate it further or to dismiss it.

      4.  In the investigation and adjudication of complaints against them, Members of the House have the right to safeguards as rigorous as those applied in the courts and professional disciplinary bodies.

      5.  If after investigation the Sub-Committee finds the allegation proved, the Member complained against has a right of appeal to the Committee for Privileges.

      6.  The conclusions of the Sub-Committee and of the Committee for Privileges are reported to the House.


33   Cm 2850, p 14. The seven principles are:

Selflessness: Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.

Integrity: Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.

Objectivity: In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.

Accountability: Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.

Openness: Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.

Honesty: Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.

Leadership: Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example. Back

34   Members of the House involved with organisations that offer commercial lobbying services are not obliged to refrain from participating in parliamentary business in connection with all clients of that organisation but only their personal clients. Back


 
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