Press Statement by the Chairman of the Committee on Standards and Privileges on the Eighth Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life:
Standards of Conduct in the House of Commons (Cm. 5663)
21 November 2002
Speaking after the publication by the Wicks Committee (The Committee on Standards in Public Life) of their report on the Regulation of MPs, Sir George Young, Chairman of the Select Committee on Standards and Privileges, said that he welcomed the publication of their report. He continued:
"We are very grateful to the Wicks Committee for the work they have put into the recommendations for improving the regulation of MPs' conduct. The inquiry was thorough and the Report addresses the key issues.
The Standards and Privileges Committee shares with Sir Nigel and his Committee a strong commitment to a fair and effective system for regulating the conduct of MPs and for enforcing the Code and the rules. We recognise that the House's system needs to be seen to have those qualities, not just by MPs, but by everyone else.
We welcome what the Committee says about standards in the House of Commons being generally high; and about the need to switch the emphasis on to prevention and training. Both the Committee and the new Commissioner, Sir Philip Mawer, have been doing this. By encouraging MPs to ask for advice at an early stage, we hope we may improve Members' understanding of their obligations under the Code and the rules, and consequently reduce the number of occasions when the requirements are breached.
We also welcome what they say about the need for the system to be clear and transparent; the House approved new rules in May which have that objective and the new Register, to be published early next month, will reflect this.
Sir Nigel makes a number of recommendations for change-the thrust of the report being about strengthening the current system, rather than introducing fundamental reform. Some of his proposals are for the House of Commons Commission to respond to, but many impact on the Select Committee. These touch on the composition of the Committee, its mode of conducting inquiries-particularly in serious, contested cases-its relationship with the Commissioner and the Code of Conduct.
While I believe that the present system is robust, that does not mean that it is incapable of improvement. It is in that spirit that my colleagues and I, as members of the Standards and Privileges Committee, will look constructively at the proposals of the Wicks Committee. I am sure that the House itself, which of course has the final word on any changes, will want to do the same."
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