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Wednesday, 12 January, 2000, 13:57 GMT
The Neill Committee: Key recommendations

The sixth report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life makes 41 recommendations. Here is a summary of the key points.

Members of Parliament

The report focused on disciplinary procedures in the House of Commons, including the rules governing the investigation and adjudication of allegations of serious misconduct by MPs. The report also looked at the ban on paid advocacy.
Key recommendations
  • The introduction of a criminal law of bribery
  • Procedures for the "trial" of an MP accused of serious wrongdoing.
  • The tribunal would be conducted by an outside lawyer sitting with two or four MPs of senior stature.
  • The right for MPs to bring evidence before this tribunal with possible financial aid.
  • The House of Commons would agree on the penalty for an MPs found guilty at tribunal.
  • Cases of a less serious nature would remain the responsibility of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.
  • The ban on paid advocacy should be retained.





Ministers

The committee looked at how the Prime Minister should investigate allegations of misconduct against ministers and how he or she should set the ministerial code of conduct.
Key recommendations
  • The ministerial code should be amended to clarify that a minister is responsible for any decision taken after he or she has been advised by their permanent secretary of a potential conflict of interest.
  • The committee believes that there should not be an office for investigating ministerial misconduct.
  • The ministerial code should be further amended to clarify the role of the prime minister in setting standards for ministers.





Special advisers

The committee took evidence on the growing role of politically-appointed figures within Whitehall, who controls them and their relationship with the civil service.
Key recommendations
  • The ministerial code should be amended to take into account that there are sometimes more than two advisers per minister.
  • The proposed Civil Service Act should include a limit, which can be varied by Parliament, to the number of advisers within government.
  • There should be a transparent and coherent code of conduct for advisers which should clarify the nature of the role that they play in relation to the work of civil service information staff.
  • The code would be enforced by permanent heads of department and would be part of the proposed Civil Service Act.





Lobbying and all-party groups

The committee has revisited the work of lobbyists in the wake of the so-called "cash for access" affair involving the former Labour worker-turned lobbyist Derek Draper and considered the relationship between these outside bodies and the executive.
Key recommendations
  • Ministers should record the basic facts about official meetings with external interests including time and date, the people involved and the general subject. The committee said that the publication of these details would be a matter for the coming freedom of information legislation.
  • Civil servants and special advisers should also keep records of their meetings with external interests, such as lobbyists, along the same lines.
  • The Register of All-Party Parliamentary and Associate Parliamentary Groups should be published on the internet.





Sponsorship of government activity

The committee also examined the relationships which evolve between the government and outside bodies through the sponsorship of events or other activities.
Key recommendations
  • There should be no ban on sponsorship.
  • The Cabinet Office should produce a set of principles to be followed by departments.
  • The principles should include the requirement that a net benefit gained through sponsorship is not at the detriment of the public interest.
  • The value of sponsorship agreements worth more than 5,000 should be disclosed in annual reports.



Task forces

The committee investigated the growth of government task forces or policy review groups which currently lie outside the scope of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.
Key recommendations
  • The Cabinet Office should establish an agreed definition of a task force.
  • The Cabinet Office should review the number of task forces
  • The Cabinet Office should consider with others whether task forces which are more than two years old should be disbanded.


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See also:
12 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Spin doctors face greater controls
12 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
How sleaze entered the political dictionary
12 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
The advisers: Modernisation or politicisation?

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