Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Archive
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Sunday, October 31, 1999 Published at 12:50 GMT


UK: Scotland

'Sleaze czar' for parliament

Donald Dewar says an independent judge could help

Scotland looks set to get its own independent commissioner for parliamentary standards following the controversy surrounding the so-called Lobbygate affair.

First Minister Donald Dewar is keen to have a standards investigation process similar to the one which operates at Westminster.


Donald Dewar: "All those named in what was after all an over-exaggerated sales pitch were exonerated"
Mr Dewar told BBC Scotland's Holyrood programme on Sunday that the idea behind the new role would be to improve the present standards system.

He said: "There is a strong feeling among MSPs that present proceedures are clumsy.

"If we had had someone to look at the information before the committee's inquiry then I am sure we would not have had the kind of speculation we did have."

Other political leaders are enthusiastic backers.


Iain Macwhirter: "Should the inquiry have happened at all?"
Scottish Tory leader David McLetchie said: "Lobbygate has shown us that there is room for an independent commissioner who can look at information before the matter comes to committee.

"The problem with Lobbygate was that a lot of allegations were being bandied about, back and forth, some with no substance at all. That is not fair to ministers."

The SNP's Andrew Wilson welcomed the idea and said he believed the Standards Committee would also embrace the notion of an independent adviser.


[ image: Donald Gorrie: Word of caution]
Donald Gorrie: Word of caution
But Liberal Democrat Donald Gorrie offered a word of caution on the matter.

He said: "There might be justification in having an independent commissioner, but the idea of a full time post is ridiculous.

"If you have an energetic person in the role and MSPs are doing not much wrong then he will find work for himself. We have to look at this very carefully."

The willingness to appoint a "sleaze czar" comes in the wake of the parliament's inquiry into allegations that lobbyists had influence over minister's diaries.


BBC Scotland's political editor Brian Taylor: "The new czar will not stop standards committee investigations"
The new system would mean that allegations against MSPs would first go before a legally-trained official - to weed out the trivial, malicious or politically motivated claims.

This would not stop the Standards Committee from investigating serious allegations.

It could still scrutinise anything it chooses. But - as at Westminster - it is felt there should be a process of pre-scrutiny.

The plan follows the decision of the parliament's standards committee to acquit Finance Minister Jack McConnell - and all other members investigated - of having improper links with lobbyists.


[ image: Mike Rumbles: Committee Convener]
Mike Rumbles: Committee Convener
The inquiry was sparked after a reporter from the Observer newspaper posed as a businessman and secretly taped a conversation between Kevin Reid and Alex Barr - two lobbyists with PR firm Beattie Media.

Mr Reid told of his links with the Secretary of State for Scotland, John Reid, who is father.

And Mr Barr implied strong links with some Scottish Parliament ministers.

The tapes were made public and Mr Dewar launched an investigation.

The Standards Committee, headed by Mike Rumbles MSP, conducted an inquiry which saw Mr Reid, Mr Barr, the head of Beattie Media, Gordon Beattie, Mr McConnell and his secretary, Christina Marshall, all giving evidence.

Members have now finished the substantive inquiry and found that no MSP was in breach of the parliament's rules.

It will now move on to drafting a code of conduct for MSPs and, if possible, regulating lobbyists.



Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©



Relevant Stories

31 Oct 99 | Scotland
Perjury probe over Lobbygate evidence

29 Oct 99 | Scotland
Standards watchdog clears McConnell

29 Oct 99 | Scotland
Committee to rule on Lobbygate

27 Oct 99 | Scotland
Secretary disputes Lobbygate evidence

05 Oct 99 | Scotland
MSPs' watchdog pledges speedy inquiry

03 Oct 99 | Scotland
McConnell pledges to aid standards inquiry

29 Sep 99 | Scotland
Dewar heeds calls for official statement

29 Sep 99 | Scotland
Minister denies wrongdoing

28 Sep 99 | Scotland
Pulling the strings of power

27 Sep 99 | Scotland
Suspension call for media company

27 Sep 99 | Scotland
Reid defends lobby row son

26 Sep 99 | Scotland
Probe launched into lobbying allegations





Internet Links


The Observer

Beattie Media

Scottish Executive

The Scotsman


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.




In this section

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Sport
Collins calls it a day for Scots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Death inquiry anaesthetist barred

Bowled over by Lord's

Ministers loosen purse strings

'Delight' at Tunnel court outcome

From Sport
Derby double swoop fails

Demands for far-reaching information bill

Gaelic makes sound use of the internet

Trusts 'ignoring' depression advice

BBC Scotland - On Air

'Little change' since poverty pledge

Nine hurt as bus crashes into pub

Teachers' union in pay body challenge

Dental death hearing adjourned

Parliament ponders Royal High flit

Reid quits PR job

Industry misses new trains target

Football and royalty dominate Westminster

From Sport
The next Battle of Britain

Man charged with murdering lab technician

Lockerbie trial judges named

Festival award for Ratcatcher