Press Notice 8, Session 2005-06

GUARDING THE GUARDIANS: PASC INQUIRES INTO ETHICAL REGULATORS

PASC - the Public Administration Select Committee - is inquiring into the role and independence of the ethical regulators of government, particularly those established through ministerial powers. It will provide a stocktake of the ethical regulation of government, and will explore whether there are improvements that can be made to the present arrangements.

 The Civil Service Commission this year celebrates its 150th anniversary. The Committee on Standards in Public Life, the Commissioner for Public Appointments and the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments were created more recently in response to circumstances prevailing at that time. These bodies act as the guardians of standards in  areas of public life governed by conventions and principles. PASC’s ‘Issues and Questions’ paper, published today, calls for evidence on the accountability and independence of these bodies, what contribution they make towards improving public administration, what lessons we can learn from other countries and whether the time has come for some rationalisation.

Commenting today, Committee Chairman Tony Wright said:

“The Public Administration Select Committee has made recommendations in the recent past about the operation and independence of some of the ethical regulators as well as looking at ways of improving the policing of the Ministerial Code. It is timely to look at these bodies in the round and see how they have fared in the year’s since they were set up.

It is important that we maintain our reputation for high standards of probity in public life but equally that we ask ourselves from time to time how effectively the watchdogs of ethics and propriety are operating and whether there is room for improvement. The question of who guards the guardians is important, both for ensuring proper accountability and enhancing their effectiveness”.

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The Committee is inviting written evidence from interested parties and will also hold evidence sessions to hear oral evidence from some of those who submit written evidence and from relevant officials.  The Issues and Questions paper can be found on the Committee website http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/public_administration_select_committee/pasciandqethics.cfm.  Responses to the paper should be with the Committee by Monday 9 January.  Some respondents may wish to concentrate on those issues in which they have a special interest, rather than necessarily answering all the questions.

Evidence submitted should:

• be submitted as hard copy on A4 paper and as an electronic file also, by email to [email protected], or on computer disk in Rich Text Format, ASCII, WordPerfect 8 or Word. Hard copies should be sent to Eve Samson, Clerk, Public Administration Select Committee, Committee Office, First Floor, Committee Office, 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA;

• have a covering letter containing your full postal address and contact details;

• any memorandum of more than ten pages should begin with a one page summary;

• avoid the use of colour or expensive-to-print material;

• further guidance on the submission of evidence can be found at http://www.parliament.uk/commons/selcom/witguide.htm.

Once submitted, evidence is the property of the Committee. The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to make public the written evidence it receives, either by printing the written evidence alongside the oral evidence or by making the evidence available through the Parliamentary Record Office. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure; the Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.

It would be helpful, for Data Protection purposes, if individuals wishing to submit written evidence send their contact details separately in a covering letter. You should be aware that there may be circumstances in which the House of Commons will be required to communicate information to third parties on request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

FURTHER INFORMATION:

The Committee was nominated on 13 July 2005.  Its terms of reference are to examine the reports of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsmen, and to consider matters relating to the quality and standards of administration provided by Civil Service departments, and other matters relating to the Civil Service. The Membership of the Committee is as follows:

Tony Wright (Chairman) (Lab) (Cannock Chase), Mr David Burrowes (Con) (Enfield, Southgate), Paul Flynn (Lab) (Newport West), Julia Goldsworthy (Lib Dem) (Falmouth & Camborne), David Heyes (Lab) (Ashton under Lyne), Kelvin Hopkins (Lab) (Luton North), Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger (Con) (Bridgewater), Julie Morgan (Lab) (Cardiff North), Mr Gordon Prentice (Lab) (Pendle), Grant Shapps (Con) (Welwyn Hatfield), Jenny Willott (Lib Dem) (Cardiff Central)

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