COMMITTEE ON STANDARDS IN PUBLIC LIFE
149 MEETING HELD ON WEDNESDAY 18th SEPTEMBER AT 35 GREAT
SMITH STREET, WESTMINSTER
Present: Sir Christopher Kelly KCB
Dr Elizabeth Vallance JP
Rt Hon Alun Michael JP MP
Lloyd Clarke QPM
Oliver Heald MP
Dr Brian Woods-Scawen DL CBE
Sir Derek Morris MA Dphil
Dame Denise Platt DBE
Apologies: Dame Patricia Hodgson DBE
Secretariat: Ruth Alaile, Secretary
Peter Hawthorne, Assistant Secretary
Matthew Dowding, Secretariat Co-ordinator
Maggie O’Boyle, Press Officer
The Agenda was agreed.
Summary record of 148h Meeting
1. The minutes of the previous (148th) meeting of July, were
The following action was noted as ongoing:
Website Re-design: The Committee were informed that the new
website should be completed by end of September.
Letter to the Rt Hon Jack Straw MP: The Chair will be writing to
the Rt Hon Jack Straw MP seeking confirmation of the
Government’s intention to implement the Committee’s
recommendations on the mandate of the Electoral Commission.
LGC Awards: Due to prior commitments the Committee had to
decline an invitation to judge the LGC Award for Ethics and
Register of Interests
2. The latest Register was reviewed and amended by Members.
MPs’ Pay and Allowances
3. The Committee noted the consultation by the Leader of the Commons
on Audit and Assurance of MPs’ Allowances. It was agreed that the
Committee should respond to the consultation.
4. It was also agreed that the Committee should write to the Leader of the
House suggesting the type of experience required by the two new
independent nominees to the Advisory Panel on Members’ Allowances
and invite her to attend a meeting to update the Committee on the
progress being made to address the Committee’s concerns about the
system for remunerating and supporting MPs.
Directly Elected Mayors
5. The Committee considered the merits of undertaking an inquiry into
elected mayoral models in the United Kingdom.
6. It was felt that the topic should be broadened to include the ‘Cabinet
Model’ in local government. Both of these new forms of local leadership
raised issues about openness and transparency of decision-making
and accountability. There were also questions about whether these
changes had succeeded in improving trust in local governance and the
perception that there were tensions between speedy and efficient
decision-making and the system of ‘checks and balances’ that the
Committee should explore.
7. It was agreed that the topic of the Committee’s next inquiry should be
on the subject of local leadership. It should be broad in scope and
embrace local leadership in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
Freedom of Information
8. The Committee is on record as stating that it would conduct an inquiry
on the Freedom of Information Act. There was a discussion about
whether it was now the right time to conduct an inquiry into the
workings and impact of the Act.
9. It was noted that the Information Tribunal had only just started to rule
on appeals, and that there were number of critical appeal judgements
still in the pipeline. In the light of this it was suggested that the
Committee should await the outcome of these judgements before
taking a decision.
10. In the meantime, it was agreed that the topic of the Committee’s March
seminar should be the Freedom of Information Act.
Response to the Consultation paper on Election Day: Weekend Voting
11. The Committee discussed how it should respond to the Ministry of
Justice consultation paper on Weekend Voting. The paper was seeking
comment on the merits of moving Election Day from Thursday to the
Weekend and on the best way to do this. The Committee’s main
concern was to protect the integrity of the electoral system. It could not
support an extension of remote voting until there were effective
safeguards against the risk of electoral fraud. It was noted that the
Open Rights Network, an advocate of electronic voting, had already
expressed similar concerns. It was also felt that the Committee’s
response should reiterate its call for a move to individual voter
12. It was agreed that the Chair should approve the Committee’s response
to this consultation.
Electoral Commission Report on Electoral Administration
13. The Committee noted the Electoral Commission’s Report, Electoral
Administration in United Kingdom. The Committee expressed concern
that the report did not acknowledge the Committee’s Eleventh Report
and its recommendations.
14. It was agreed that the Committee should respond formally to the
publication. This response should reiterate the findings of the Eleventh
Report. It was also agreed that the Chair should write to the new
incoming Chair of the Electoral Commission outlining the Committee’s
concerns and its desire to work with her to address the issues
Committee Programme of Seminars 2008/09
15. The Committee considered the proposed seminar programme for
2008/9. The Committee felt that these seminars should be ‘roundtable
discussion’ events which would form part of the Committee’s ongoing
general monitoring role. The following list of seminars were agreed for
Elected Mayors (October 2008);
Findings of the Public Perception Survey (December
Freedom of Information Act (March 2009); and
Media and Perception of Standards (Summer 2009).
Meeting Dates for 2009/10
16. The Secretary circulated the list of meeting dates for 2009, and
meeting dates for 2010.
17. The Secretary’s Report outlined the work and activities undertaken by
the Secretariat since the last meeting.
18. The Committee noted the items on the paper, including the
correspondence between the Chair and Linda Fabiani MSP, Minister
for Europe, External Affairs and Culture at the Scottish Government.
Current Issues and Concerns
19. The Committee noted the items on the paper.