Review of the Code of Conduct and Guide to the Rules Relating to the Conduct of Members

Session: 2014/2015

Date: 10 June 2015

Reference: NIA 178/11-16

ISBN: 978-0-339-60584-8

Mandate Number: Mandate 2011/16 Fourteenth Report

Review-of-Code-of-Conduct.pdf (23.41 mb)

Executive Summary

1. The Committee on Standards and Privileges has carried out a review of the Assembly’s Code of Conduct and Guide to the Rules Relating to the Conduct of Members.

2. As a result of this review the Committee has prepared a new Code of Conduct and Guide to the Rules. The new Code and Guide includes:

  • a redefined purpose;
  • a clarified scope;
  • eleven aspirational principles of conduct;
  • twenty-one enforceable rules of conduct; and
  • a clearer Guide to the Rules, which sets out more detailed requirements, provisions and guidance in relation to certain rules of conduct.

3. The Committee believes that the new Code of Conduct and Guide to the Rules:

  • is relevant, appropriate, comprehensive, well-structured, clear and enforceable;
  • will increase 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.

4. The Committee has recommended that the Assembly agrees to the new Code of Conduct and Guide to the Rules which is set out in Annex 1 of this report.

5. The Committee has recommended that Standing Order 69 should be reviewed in order to determine whether it should be amended to reflect the provisions of the new Code and Guide and that the new Code and Guide should not come into effect until after a review of Standing Order 69 is complete.

6. The Committee has made a number of further recommendations.

Recommendations

Recommendation 1

7. The Committee recommends that the Assembly approves the new Code of Conduct and Guide to the Rules set out in Annex 1. The new Code and Guide includes:

  • A redefined purpose;
  • A clarified scope;
  • Eleven aspirational principles of conduct
  • Twenty-one enforceable rules of conduct, including express rules in relation to:
    • Managing conflicts of interests
    • Upholding the law
    • Registering and declaring interests
    • The prohibition of the receipt of certain gifts
    • Paid advocacy
    • The misuse of payments, allowances or resources
    • Assembly policies, guidance and instructions
    • The treatment of confidential information
    • The interference with the performance by the Assembly of its functions
    • The abuse of the position as a Member
    • Not subjecting others to unreasonable and excessive personal attack
    • Investigations into complaints
    • Responsibility for staff
    • Reporting details of approaches to breach the Code
    • Not urging other Members to contravene the Code; and
  • A clearer Guide to the Rules, which sets out more detailed requirements, provisions and guidance in relation to certain rules of conduct.

Recommendation 2

8. The Committee recommends that Standing Order 69 should be reviewed in order to determine whether it should be amended to reflect the provisions of the new Code and Guide.

Recommendation 3

9. The Committee recommends that the new Code and Guide should not come into effect until after a review of Standing Order 69 is complete.

Recommendation 4

10. The Committee recommends that the Assembly welcomes the Independent Financial Review Panel’s intention to include in its determination for the fifth Assembly provision for reducing the salary of a Member by 90% for any period during which the Member is imprisoned.

Recommendation 5

11. The Committee recommends that the Executive should publish the guidance contained within the Ministerial Code published in 2000 to which there remains an expectation that, should particular circumstances arise, Ministers would have due regard.

Recommendation 6

12. The Committee recommends that the Committee on Procedures should review whether Standing Order 70 is still necessary.

Recommendation 7

13. The Committee recommends that the Assembly Commission should review the current Secretariat Staff/Member protocol to take account of Rule 15 in the new Code of Conduct and that, following this, consideration shall be given to the Commissioner only investigating complaints that have first been considered under the protocol but which remain unresolved.

Recommendation 8

14. The Committee recommends that it should liaise with the Assembly Commission and others to ensure that, if possible, a code of conduct for Members’ staff is agreed and introduced to have effect from the start of the next mandate.

Recommendation 9

15. The Committee recommends that it should be able to make such minor amendments to the Guide to the Rules as appear to it to be justified by experience or necessarily reflect decisions of the Assembly, and to report such amended versions of the Guide to the Rules to the Assembly.

Recommendation 10

16. The Committee recommends that the Assembly agrees in principle that dual reporting requirements for Members should end and that it should work with the Electoral Commission to establish proposals for a single point of registration for those details which are required to be registered under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

Recommendation 11

17. The Committee recommends that the Assembly should note the ‘Guidance for Members on dealing with lobbyists’.

Recommendation 12

18. The Committee recommends that OFMdFM should give consideration to whether a Register of Lobbyists in Northern Ireland would be appropriate or beneficial.

Recommendation 13

19. The Committee recommends that it should approach Politics Plus to seek to put in place appropriate arrangements for training in relation to a range of standards issues.

20. In addition to these recommendations the Committee invites Executive departments to routinely publish details of gifts, benefits and hospitality etc. or overseas visits accepted by Ministers.

 

Download the full report here.

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