Committee on Standards in Public Life
The Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) is an advisory non-departmental public body of the United Kingdom Government, established in 1994 to advise the Prime Minister on ethical standards of public life.
- advising the Prime Minister on ethical issues relating to standards in public life
- conducting broad inquiries into standards of conduct
- making recommendations as to changes in present arrangements
- promoting the 7 principles of public Life.
The Committee does not investigate individual allegations of misconduct, that being the role of the relevant regulator.
The Committee is made up of the chair, five independent members appointed by the Prime Minister following open competition, and three political members appointed by the Prime Minister on the recommendation of the leaders of the Labour Party, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrat Party.
As of 2015, the Committee members were Lord Paul Bew (Chair), The Lord Alderdice, The Rt Hon Dame Margaret Beckett DBE MP, Sheila Drew Smith OBE, Patricia Moberly, Richard Thomas CBE, Dame Angela Watkinson DBE MP.
The Committee was initially established in October 1994 by the Prime Minister, John Major, in response to concerns that conduct by some politicians was unethical—-for example, during the cash-for-questions affair.
1994 terms of reference
The Committee's original terms of reference were:
To examine current concerns about standards of conduct of all holders of public office, including arrangements relating to financial and commercial activities, and make recommendations as to any changes in present arrangements which might be required to ensure the highest standards of propriety in public life.
The term "public office" was defined to include ministers, civil servants and advisers; Members of Parliament and UK Members of the European Parliament; Members and senior officers of all non-departmental public bodies and of national health service bodies; non-ministerial office holders; members and other senior officers of other bodies discharging publicly funded functions; and elected members and senior officers of local authorities.
First report, 1995
- Selflessness – Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other 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 seek to 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 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.
1997 terms of reference
In November 1997, Tony Blair extended the Committee's terms of reference: "To review issues in relation to the funding of political parties, and to make recommendations as to any changes in present arrangements."
2013 terms of reference
On 5 February 2013, the Committee's terms of reference were clarified in two ways - (1): ‘…in future the Committee should not inquire into matters relating to the devolved legislatures and governments except with the agreement of those bodies’, and (2): ‘…the Committee’s remit to examine “standards of conduct of all holders of public office” [encompasses] all those involved in the delivery of public services, not solely those appointed or elected to public office.’
The terms of reference were further clarified on 28th February 2013 to explain that the Committee "can examine issues relating to the ethical standards of the delivery of public services by private and voluntary sector organisations, paid for by public funds, even where those delivering the services have not been appointed or elected to public office.”
List of past Committee chairmen
- The Lord Nolan (28 October 1994 – 7 November 1997)
- The Lord Neill of Bladen, QC (7 November 1997 – 1 March 2001)
- Sir Nigel Wicks (1 March 2001 – 26 April 2004)
- Sir Alistair Graham (26 April 2004 – 24 April 2007)
- Sir Christopher Kelly, KCB (from 1 January 2008 - 1 April 2013)
- Lord Bew (1 September 2013 - )
The Seven Principles of Public Life
The Seven Principles of Public Life have been amended over the years. They are currently (2015) worded as follows:
- Selflessness – Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.
- Integrity – Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.
- Objectivity – Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.
- Accountability – Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.
- Openness – Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.
- Honesty – Holders of public office should be truthful
- Leadership – Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.
- "Committee on Standards in Public Life/About". Retrieved 17 November 2015.
- "Membership". Retrieved 17 November 2015.
- "Members". Retrieved 17 November 2015.
- Leopold (2004). p. 417.
- House of Commons Library, Committee on Standards in Public Life, SN/PC/04888, 11 November 2008
- Leopold (2004). pp. 417–418.
- First Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (1995). p. 14.
- Annual Report 2010–11 (2011). p. 14.
- "Terms of reference". Retrieved 17 November 2015.
- Annual Report 2010–11 (2011). p. 16.
- "The 7 principles of public life". Retrieved 17 November 2015.
- Leopold, Patricia (2004). "Standards of Conduct in Public Life". In Jowell, Jeffrey; Oliver, Dawn. The Changing Constitution (5 ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-926439-2.
- "First Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life" (PDF). Committee on Standards in Public Life. 1995. Retrieved 19 October 2011.
- "Annual Report 2010–11" (PDF). Committee on Standards in Public Life. September 2011. Retrieved 20 October 2011.