11 June 2021Publish date: 11/06/2021
Last week, Lord Jonathan Evans, Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life reminded us in a blog that, last September, the Committee launched 'Standards Matter 2' – a landscape review examining the strengths and weaknesses of our system of upholding and regulating ethics in public life. The Committee has now published the responses to their public consultation, together with a transcript and summary of their academics' roundtable.
The Committee's intention in starting this review, was to carry out a health check of the effectiveness of standards regulation in England, just as their predecessors did in their 2013 report. The Committee has been looking carefully at the powers and remits of standards regulators, and the breadth and scope of the rules they uphold.
Since the review was launched however, there have been a number of very high profile stories and concerns around the upholding of ethical standards in public life, leading to a number of reviews of particular areas of concern – including the Boardman review on lobbying, the Parliamentary Accounts Committee inquiry into conflicts of interest in light of Greensill, the Treasury Committee's inquiry on lessons learned from Greensill Capital, and the Public Accounts Committee's inquiry on the transparency of the government's commercial functions. Lord Evans said the Committee will look closely at these reports and what they tell us more broadly about the ethics, culture, and practice of public life. The Committee's own report, 'Standards Matter 2', will be published in the autumn.
Continuing on the theme of standards, a petition has been launched by Hannah Cotton entitled "Legislate to enable Councillors to be disqualified or suspended for poor conduct!". It was brought to my attention by the Managing Director of the Local Government Resource Centre. It calls for the government to amend legislation to enable councillors to be disqualified or suspended for breaching relevant codes of conduct. You will be aware that LLG has long advocated for sanctions to give effect to an otherwise toothless code and backed the Committee on Standards in Public Life's recommendations on this two years ago. The petition requires many more signatures to obtain a government response, and a huge number to get it debated in parliament. However, this is not beyond the reach of the local government community. You may wish to consider adding your support.
Helen McGrath, Head of Public Affairs
Dennis Hall, Bulletin Editor