The Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) is an advisory non-departmental public body of the United Kingdom Government, established in 1994 to advise the Prime Minister on ethical standards of public life. It promotes a code of conduct called the Seven Principles of Public Life.
Lord Nolan chaired the Committee on Standards in Public Life from 1994 to 1997. The Committee was set up in late 1994 by John Major’s government after the cash-for-questions affair and has conducted numerous other inquiries. Its first report in 1995 created waves by recommending full disclosure of MPs’ outside interests. He also produced a report in standards of conduct in local government in July 1997.
The principles embodied and articulated in the first report have since become embedded in public life in Britain, and are often referred to eponymously as the Nolan Principles
The Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) advises the Prime Minister on ethical standards across the whole of public life in England. It monitors and reports on issues relating to the standards of conduct of all public officeholders. The Committee advises the Prime Minister on ethical standards across public life. It conducts broad inquiries, collecting evidence to assess institutions, policies and practices and makes recommendations to the Prime Minister where appropriate. The Committee promotes the Principles of Public Life, which outline the ethical standards that working in the public sector are expected to adhere to. The Principles apply to all public office holders and private and voluntary organisations delivering services paid for by public funds.
The Committee has no remit to comment on or investigate individual cases.
Under its remit, the Committee cannot inquire into matters relating to devolved legislatures and governments except with their agreement. When the subject of the Committee’s reviews impact on reserved areas however, the Committee seeks the views of the devolved administrations as appropriate.
The Committee on Standards in Public Life is an independent advisory non-departmental public body, with a secretariat and budget provided by the Cabinet Office. It is responsible for:
- advising the Prime Minister on ethical issues relating to standards in public life
- conducting broad inquiries into standards of conduct
- making recommendations as to changes in present arrangements
- promoting the 7 principles of public life.
The Committee does not investigate individual allegations of misconduct, that being the role of the relevant regulator.
The Seven Principles of Public life
The committee promotes a code of conduct for those in public life called the Seven Principles of Public Life.
- Selflessness – Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.
- Integrity – Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.
- Objectivity – Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.
- Accountability – Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.
- Openness – Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.
- Honesty – Holders of public office should be truthful
- Leadership – Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.
These Seven Principles apply to anyone who works as a public office holder including:
- those elected or appointed to public office, nationally or locally,
- those appointed to work in the civil service, local government, the police, courts and probation services, Non Departmental Public Bodies, and in the health, education, social and care services, and
- those in the private sector delivering public services.
The Committee consists of a chair, four independent members and three political members. The chair and independent members are appointed by the Prime Minister for a single five-year term, following an open competition regulated by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments (OCPA). The political members, nominated by the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat political parties, are appointed for three years with the possibility of reappointment.
|Chair||Jonathan Evans, Baron Evans of Weardale KCB DL||25 October 2018||5 years|
|Member||Dame Margaret Beckett DBE MP (Labour Party)||31 October 2019 (originally appointed 1 November 2010)||3 years|
|Member||Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC MP (Conservative Party)||21 November 2019||3 years|
|Member||Dame Shirley Pearce DBE||13 March 2018||5 years|
|Member||Monisha Shah||1 December 2015||5 years|
|Member||Jane Ramsey||1 September 2016||5 years|
|Member||Rt Hon Lord Stunell Kt OBE PC (Liberal Democrats)||1 December 2019 (originally appointed 1 December 2016)||3 years|
|Member||Dr Jane Martin CBE||1 January 2017||5 years|
The Committee was initially established in October 1994 by the Prime Minister, John Major, in response to concerns that conduct by some politicians was unethical – for example, during the cash-for-questions affair.
1994 terms of reference
The Committee’s original terms of reference were “To examine current concerns about standards of conduct of all holders of public office, including arrangements relating to financial and commercial activities, and make recommendations as to any changes in present arrangements which might be required to ensure the highest standards of propriety in public life”.
First report, 1995
The Committee’s First Report in 1995 established an initial version of The Seven Principles of Public Life, also known as the “Nolan principles”. They were:
- Selflessness – Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so to gain financial or other benefits for themselves, their family or their friends.
- Integrity – Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties.
- Objectivity – In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit and facts not on personal judgements
- Accountability – Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.
- Openness – Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.
- Honesty – Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.
- Leadership – Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.
(The wording of these Principles has since been revised following a review in the Fourteenth Report of January 2013.)
1997 terms of reference
In November 1997, Tony Blair extended the Committee’s terms of reference: “To review issues in relation to the funding of political parties, and to make recommendations as to any changes in present arrangements.”
2013 terms of reference
On 5 February 2013, the Committee’s terms of reference were clarified in two ways – (1): “…in future the Committee should not inquire into matters relating to the devolved legislatures and governments except with the agreement of those bodies”, and (2): “…the Committee’s remit to examine “standards of conduct of all holders of public office” [encompasses] all those involved in the delivery of public services, not solely those appointed or elected to public office”.
The terms of reference were further clarified on 28 February 2013 to explain that the Committee “can examine issues relating to the ethical standards of the delivery of public services by private and voluntary sector organisations, paid for by public funds, even where those delivering the services have not been appointed or elected to public office.”
- Sir Clifford Boulton (1994–2000) [please search and comment for further members, list is incompleate]
List of past Committee chairmen
- The Lord Nolan 28 October 1994 – 7 November 1997
- The Lord Neill of Bladen, QC 7 November 1997 – 1 March 2001
- Sir Nigel Wicks 1 March 2001 – 26 April 2004
- Sir Alistair Graham 26 April 2004 – 24 April 2007
- Sir Christopher Kelly, KCB 1 January 2008 – 1 April 2013
- Lord Bew 1 September 2013 – 25 October 2018