A new report by the Committee on Standards in Public Life - “Upholding Public Standards” recognises the importance of high ethical standards to democracy and economic success. Yet, as its polling reveals, public confidence in the conduct of Ministers is low.
The Committee - which advises the PM on ethical standards, calls for central government reforms, including legislation to put ethics regulators and the codes that they enforce on a statutory footing, greater transparency in lobbying and improvements in the public appointments system.
Committee chairman and former director of MI5, Lord Evans, said, ”Businesses want to invest in a country were governance is stable, predictable and fair. The UK’s success in countering corruption abroad depends on our reputation for high ethical standards at home.”
He concluded that the report’s recommendations ‘point to a necessary programme of reform to restore public confidence in the regulation of ethical standards in government.”
Protect Chief Executive Liz Gardiner said, ‘That the public have little trust in the ethics of MPs and Ministers is surely enough reason for the Government to make reforms. The Committee argues that the current “light touch” enforcement of standards is not working and that action should be taken to restore public trust. We welcome reform to the definition of leadership to include treating others with respect. We’d like to see greater clarity around the Ministerial Code which is where the PM sets out how Ministers should behave. As we’ve argued before, this should include a zero tolerance approach from Ministers to victimising whistleblowers who play avital role in holding the government to account.”
A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said the government would “carefully consider” the report.