Lord Ackner: Is not the problem this? In opening, my noble and learned friend said that he had tried to chime with the spirit of our time. If that is the proper approach, the word "spouse" ought always to be followed by the word "partner". "Partner" is an accepted term and I heard it referred to in a debate in your Lordships' House last week. If one is seeking to avoid that, I understand that "relative" or "friend" is meant to be a euphemism for "partner". I suggest to my noble and learned friend that he must include "partner" after "spouse" or he will not chime with the spirit of our time.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: When I was at the Bar and appeared in front of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, he always urged me to get my references correct. I said that we must chime with the spirit of Neill. In any event, the spirit of our time, to take the phrase used by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, is one where automatic response to those in authority is no longer the norm and there are serious questions about propriety.
I would be confident that in the overwhelming majority of cases in this Chamber the suspicion would be wrongly based. The way to deal with suspicion is to let in the clear air. I do not use "friend" as another word to describe a person who lives with another of the same or different sex without having been married. It is the nature of the relationship. A noble Lord might
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have such a close friend that if he knows of a significant interest, to take the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Park, he might feel that he had discharged his duty more properly by saying, "I have to say that a close friend of mine is a very large landowner", or whatever, "and this will affect him". It is as simple as that.
If one has a friend whose interests one is wholly unaware of the question does not arise. One does not have to send a round robin catechising all one's friends about what they own and whether they have any money in the bank. One must be realistic about these matters.
I return to the central point that there was no one on the committee who was against the principle of registration and declaration. I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland. The issue is set out in the letter of dissent which was bound into the red book. I hope that the Committee will not take it harshly if I say that if these principles are not accepted we shall do ourselves a very serious, critical disservice and harm the public interest, which is not always coincident with our own.
Lord Mayhew of Twysden: The noble and learned Lord has been very generous with his time. As the document is now drafted, may we not be in danger of doing a great disservice, to use the noble and learned Lord's most recent phrase, to friends of one or other of us who legitimately wish to keep private their own interests? The whole point is that under Griffiths it is declaratory and voluntary, but under the noble and learned Lord's proposals it is a "must". Therefore, as a friend with an interest which I may wish to keep private--I have none as far as I know, but I might--I have no means of controlling whether it is or is not to be blazoned across a public document and examined by the media, which the noble and learned Lord has so eloquently defended.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: That is not so if the hypothesis is that the noble and learned Lord has a friend with a private interest of which the noble and learned Lord is unaware. If I have misunderstood the point and the significant interest is known, by definition it should be disclosed. When one comes into this Chamber one has an enormous raft of advantage which does not come without a degree of discipline. The Griffiths resolution said that noble Lords with a direct financial interest should declare it, and they should also declare any non-financial interest. It goes on to say that such interests may include the interest of a relation or friend.
If the Committee is of the view that all is well in this world I must seriously dissent. I repeat that not one member of the committee, which sat a long time ago and spent a good deal of time on the matter, concluded that registration and declaration were not required.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, said that I had been generous with my time, which may mean that it is time I sat down and let the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, speak. I have tried to respond to
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everything I possibly can. There are one or two matters of further detail. I ask your Lordships to look at old paragraph 15 and new paragraph 18. Since we are in non-controversial areas I may as well deal with the point. In case any noble Lord does not have the cross-comparator I shall refer to it. Our majority proposal was that,
"The list in paragraph 14 above is not exhaustive. For example, relevant non-financial interests may also include (depending on their significance):
The amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, is "(excepting family trusts)". We have a plain disagreement. One example, not guidance, is that at one time I declared my trusteeship of the NSPCC. That post was not remunerated, nor did I claim or receive any expenses. I had to register and declare that, quite rightly. If the Kingsland amendment is agreed and family trusts are excluded, despite the doubts of the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, I may be a trustee of a family trust that controls hundreds of millions or perhaps even a billion pounds. I do not see the sense of having to disclose my unpaid trusteeship of the NSPCC but not being obliged to disclose a vast family trust.
If one wants to be cynical about the media, in any event many of these matters can be discovered one way or another. If one wants to research Companies House and shareholdings one way or another one can find them out. It takes a good deal of effort. When it is done after a good deal of effort normally it brings about the comment in some parts of the media that it was all hidden away and it has had to be squirreled out. I believe that we are all much better off being open about it. If one has nothing to hide, why seek to hide it?
Lord Strathclyde: What the noble and learned Lord proposes completely misunderstands my reading of the amendment to be moved by my noble friend Lord Kingsland. Family trusts are not excluded from the requirement to disclose. Let nobody in this Chamber believe that an interest in a family trust can be excluded, if that is what is being debated. Those are the existing rules and nothing is being changed. The impression given by the Leader of the House was that in some way my noble friends Lord Kingsland and Lord Elton sought to protect all noble Lords with an interest in family trusts from ever having to declare them. This has been a good opportunity for me to put the record straight.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: If that is right I am very pleased, but I remain in some doubt, which will obviously be the subject of explanation by the noble Lord, as to why there is an exception for family trusts. If the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, is correct in his guidance I am happy to bow to it and accept it gratefully.
The Committee will forgive me if I have overlooked anything which needs to be dealt with, because I shall return to it in winding up. The final matter of detail is the question of commencement. Originally, my Motion proposed the commencement date of January
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2002. The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, took the view that it should be 31st March 2002, and I believe that the Liberal Democrat Benches came to the same conclusion. Having reflected upon it, that seems a reasonable compromise. I do not know whether I can assist further at this stage. I shall reply to any questions in due time.
Moved to resolve, That this House adopts a Code of Conduct for Members of the House of Lords as follows:
CODE OF CONDUCT FOR MEMBERS OF 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.
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.
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 seven general principles of conduct identified by the Committee on Standards in Public Life. 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.
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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.
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.
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-- employment or any other financial interest in businesses involved in parliamentary lobbying on behalf of clients, including public relations and law firms, but 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;
-- 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, except any visits paid for from public funds.
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.
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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).
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 Bench Peers.
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.
19. The adoption of this Code shall have effect from 31st March 2002.--(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)