Press Notice 59, Session 2005-06

6 September 2006

Independent investigation of the Ministerial Code now essential says PASC

In its report published today, ‘The Ministerial Code: the case for independent investigation’ (HC 1457), the Public Administration Select Committee sets out the main elements needed for independent investigation of alleged breaches of the Ministerial Code which it says is now long overdue.

The Committee’s report endorses the calls already made by both the House of Commons’ Standards and Privileges Committee and the independent Committee on Standards in Public Life at the end of July that the Prime Minister should introduce an independent element into the investigation of such complaints.

PASC concludes that this investigatory machinery should:

  • be manifestly independent of the Executive;

  • not involve the creation of yet a further regulatory office and, ideally, should be undertaken by an official connected to the House;

  • concern itself only with establishing the facts of the case;

  • make its findings available to Parliament and the public;

  • reserve to the Prime Minister the right to judge whether the facts amount to a breach of the Ministerial Code and what the consequences should be;

  • avoid the proliferation of frivolous or vexatious complaints.

Tony Wright, Chairman of the Committee, said:

“The Ministerial Code is now established as the public framework of rules against which ministerial conduct is judged. That is a positive development. But providing the means for independent investigation of alleged breaches is long overdue. This would benefit not just public confidence but also the interests of the Prime Minister, the government and especially those at the centre of allegations who deserve a fair hearing.

It is puzzling why the Government has resisted previous calls for independent investigation. Those making such allegations would then have to put up or shut up. It would not interfere with the political accountability of ministers, or with the political responsibility of the Prime Minister for the fate of ministers; but it would reduce the regular frenzy and provide a more informed basis upon which political judgements can be made."

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), 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), Paul Rowen (Lib Dem) (Rochdale), Grant Shapps (Con) (Welwyn Hatfield), Jenny Willott (Lib Dem) (Cardiff Central)

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Chairman: Dr Tony Wright may be contacted for press inquiries on 020 7219 5583

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