Committee on Standards and Privileges – Review of Members' Code of Conduct

Consultation

The Committee on Standards and Privileges invites submissions from the public on the content of the new Code of Conduct for Members. The issues paper provides the necessary background and outlines the Committee's thinking on the various matters coming up for consideration. It may be accessed in pdf or html. Submissions should be emailed to committee.standards&privileges@niassembly.gov.uk or sent to Room 241, Parliament Buildings, Ballymiscaw, Stormont, Belfast, BT4 3XX.

Please note that the deadline for submissions passed on Friday 16th May.

Background

The Committee on Standards and Privileges has agreed to carry out a review of the Assembly’s Code of Conduct and Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members (“the Code of Conduct”)

The current Code of Conduct was approved by the Northern Ireland Assembly during the previous mandate and came into effect on 12 October 2009.  All Members of the Assembly are required to comply with the requirements of the Code of Conduct.  Alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct are investigated by the Northern Ireland Assembly Commissioner for Standards (“the Commissioner”).  Reports by the Commissioner are considered by the Committee on Standards and Privileges who ultimately decide whether or not a breach of the Code of Conduct has occurred.

Both the Committee and the Commissioner are aware that a number of aspects of the current Code of Conduct could either be clarified and rewritten.  This has become apparent through a number of avenues, including through matters arising from the consideration of complaints.   

The Committee is aware of the publication of two reports in light of which the Committee should reconsider aspects of the Code of Conduct.  Firstly, the Council of Europe’s group of states against corruption (GRECO) has published its fourth round evaluation report on the United Kingdom. This report focuses on the prevention of corruption of elected members of legislatures, judges and prosecutors.  A number of its recommendations apply to the Northern Ireland Assembly (as well as to the other legislatures in the UK).  Secondly, the Committee on Standards in Public Life has published “Standards Matter”, a review of best practice in promoting good behaviour in public life.

The Committee therefore believes it is timely that a review of the Code of Conduct should be carried out.  

Terms of Reference of the Review

The Committee on Standards and Privileges has agreed to carry out a wholesale review of the current Code of Conduct and to bring forward to the Assembly for its approval a new Code of Conduct. 

The Committee aims to:

  • Agree and clarify what the purpose of the new Code of Conduct should be;
  • Define clearly the scope of the Code and set out those circumstances where it does not apply;
  • Ensure the structure of the Code makes clear the difference between any aspirational sections and those sections which are mandatory and enforceable;
  • Identify all areas of Members’ conduct which should be governed by enforceable rules within the Code of Conduct; and
  • Ultimately produce a new draft Code of Conduct which:

-  is relevant, appropriate, comprehensive, well-structured, clear and enforceable;

-  gives confidence to the public about the probity of the Assembly and the accountability of its Members; and

-  is proportionate and reasonable in the requirements it places upon Members.

In carrying out its review the Committee will have particular regard to:

  • The Committee on Standards in Public Life’s review of best practice in promoting good behaviour in public life (“Standards Matter”); and
  • The recommendations relevant to the Northern Ireland Assembly contained within the Council of Europe’s group of states against corruption (GRECO) fourth round evaluation report on the United Kingdom.

Visit to Washington and Maryland

As part of its review, the Committee recently visited the United States to meet with those with responsibility for parliamentary ethics in Congress and the General Assembly of Maryland. The Committee has published an account of the various meetings held during the visit.

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