COMMONS

Pre-appointment hearing for Chair of CSPL

09 July 2013

PASC are holding a pre-appointment hearing for the new Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL).

The Government’s preferred candidate for the post is Lord Bew, a cross-bencher and Professor of Irish Politics at Queens University Belfast.

Thursday 11 July 2013, Committee Room 15

Witnesses

Panel 1, at 9.45am

  • Lord Bew

Issues

Particular issues to be explored may include:

  • The recent Triennial Review of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, conducted by Rt Hon Peter Riddell;
  • The candidate’s relevant experience and suitability for the post; and
  • The issues likely to be faced by the Committee on Standards in Public Life in the next five years.

The Triennial Review

The Triennial Review, conducted by the Rt Hon Peter Riddell, was announced on 18 September 2012 and the findings published on 5 February 2013.

Its summary of findings is as follows:

"There is a continuing need for an ethics monitor/reviewer. The CSPL should remain as a non departmental public body - the other models for delivering the role of an ethics monitor/reviewer that I examined as part of this review are not appropriate. But a fresh start is needed to make the committee more effective and to give it greater impact:-
 
a. The CSPL should be more strategic - reviewing systems -and should avoid overlapping with the work of sectoral regulators.

b. The Committee should be bolder in picking topics, looking ahead to emerging problems, rather than reacting to scandals and allegations if ethical abuses which have already emerged.

c. The Committee - and its members, both former and current - should be cautious, as most have been, about commenting in the media on current scandals, in line with the CSPL’s longstanding policy of not investigating specific complaints or alleged abuses.

d. The Committee should keep a watching brief on broader ethical issues and maintain oversight, bringing together regulators and interested parties. But it should not either comment on the day-to-day work of regulators or see one of its objectives as improving public confidence or trust in public bodies or holders of public office.

e. The terms of reference of the committee about devolved issues need to be clarified to say that the CSPL will not investigate ethical matters involving the devolved bodies unless asked to do so.

f. The remit of the committee needs to be reviewed to define more clearly the scope of the term ‘holders of public office’ in the light of the changing role of the state and its relations with outside organisations.

g. The committee’s working methods need to be revised, to sharpen them up, to adjust to changes in the media, and to operate within a reduced budget, as has begun to happen recently. Consequently, the biennial research into public attitudes should cease and public hearings should be reduced sharply and used sparingly.
 
The independence of the Committee needs to be strengthened:-

a. A greater role for relevant parliamentary committees in the appointment of the chair and members, and in being consulted ahead of the committee’s decision on choice of inquiries.

b. An overhaul of the process for appointing non-political members to produce greater diversity of age, experience and independence, and a broader basis of selection of political members within Parliament.

c. The number of members should be cut from ten to seven, with more added if needed for specific inquires.

d. A commitment by the Cabinet Office to provide a high quality Secretariat."

Further information

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