Among its recommendations, the Group proposes the establishment of an independent House of Lords Commissioner for Standards to investigate complaints against Members, and a ban on Members accepting payment in return for parliamentary advice or services.
The Group was appointed by Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, the Leader of the House of Lords, in May to review the Lords Code of Conduct.
The Group’s recommendations represent the most far-reaching reform of the way standards of conduct are set and regulated in the House of Lords since 2001. The report takes up the challenge of improving governance in light of recent criticisms of both Houses.
At the same time, the Review Body on Senior Salaries (SSRB) has been conducting a review to examine “options for the system of financial support for Members”. That review will be published shortly. In concert, the two reviews will provide the basis for improved transparency and accountability in the House of Lords.
The Group's recommendations include:
- The House should appoint a fully independent Commissioner for Standards to conduct investigations into alleged misconduct by Members. The Commissioner would report his findings to the Sub-Committee on Lords’ Interests, which would, where appropriate, recommend sanctions.
- The Commissioner’s remit should include investigating all complaints against Members. These would include complaints relating to alleged misuse of expenses, as well as those relating to the registration and declaration of interests and “paid advocacy”.
- There should be a complete ban on Members of the House of Lords accepting payment in return for providing parliamentary advice or services to outside bodies or persons. The Group state that Members should base their actions “solely upon consideration of the public interest”, and that “Members should not seek to profit from membership of the House”.
- All Members of the House of Lords should give a formal undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct. Members would sign this undertaking at the same time as taking the oath of allegiance, on their introduction to the House and at the start of each new Parliament.
- Where Members are paid by outside bodies to provide general public affairs advice, they should list, in the Register of Lords’ Interests, not only the agency or consultancy directly employing them, but also any clients to whom they provide services or advise either directly or indirectly.
The proposed new code includes a positive statement on the role of the House in holding the Government to account, and of the way Members draw on experience and expertise gained outside Parliament in contributing to this task.
The House of Lords will debate the Group’s recommendations on 30 November and will be invited to agree the new Code of Conduct.
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