Code of Conduct
- A code of Conduct, together with the "Guide to the Rules Relating to the Conduct of Members," has since been approved by the House of Commons on 24 July, 1966.
Some more important ethical aspects as laid down in the guide relating to conduct of Members are briefly mentioned as under :
I. Registration of Members' Interests
- Under the resolution agreed by the House on 22 May, 1947 and under the Code of Conduct, Members are required to register their pecuniary interests in a Register of Members' interests.
Compilation of register
The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards has been entrusted with the duty of compiling the Register.
The main purpose of the Register of members' Interests is to provide information of any pecuniary interest of other material benefit which a Members receives and which might reasonably be thought by others to influence his or her actions, speeches or votes in parliament.
Duties of Members in respect of registration
Members are required to complete a registration form and submit it to the Commissioner for Standards within three months of taking their seats after a general election.
This three month time limit is also applicable to a Member returned at a by-election. Responsibility is cast upon Members to notify changes in their registrable interests within four weeks of the each change.
Members are required to make full disclosure of their interests.
Publication and public inspection
The Register is required to be published soon after the beginning of a new Parliament under the authority of the Committee on Standards and Privileges, and annually thereafter.
Between publications, the register has to be regularly updated in a 100 leaf form and, that form is available for public inspection in the Committee office of the House of Commons.
Categories of registrable Interest
There are ten categories of registrable interest viz.
(ii) Remunerated Employment, Office Profession, etc.;
(v) Gifts, benefits and hospitality (U.K.);
(vi) Overseas visits: (viii) Overseas benefits and gifts;
(viii) Land and Property;
(x) Shareholdings; and
II. Declaration of Members' Interests
- In 1947 the Ho us e repl ac ed a l ong st andi ng convention with a rule that any relevant pecuniary interest or benefit of whatever nature, whether direct or indirect, should be declared in debate, or other proceeding. The same rule placed a duty on Members to disclose to Ministers, or servants of the Crown, all relevant interests.
Past and potential interests
The rules relating to declaration of interest is broader in scope than the rules relating to the registration of interests in two important respects. Apart from the current interests. Members are required to declare both relevant past interests and relevant interests which they may be expecting to have. In practice only interests held in the recent past are normally considered for declaration.
It is the responsibility of the Member having regard to the rules of the House, to judge whether a pecuniary interest is sufficiently relevant to a particular debate, proceeding, meeting or other activity to require a declaration. A declaration is required to be brief but sufficiently informative to enable a listener to understand the nature of the Member's interest.
Declaration of interest in respect of written notices
In July 1995, the House agreed to extend the rules relating to declaration of interest by abolishing the exemption granted to the giving of written notices. Declaration of relevant interest is required on the Order Paper when tabling any written notice viz.
(ii) Motions, amendments thereto;
(iii) a notice of a motion for leave to introduce a "ten minutes rule" Bill;
(iv) a notice for the presentation of a Bill;
(v) amendments to Bill whenever such an interest is declared, the symbol (R) is printed after the Member's name on the notice paper or Order Paper.
"Relevant interests" Which should be declared include any interest which the Member is required to register in the Register of Member' Interests, or which the Member should declare in debate. Particulars of application, of Declaration of Interests in various situations have been laid down in the guide.
III. Advocacy Rule
- On November 1995, the House of Commons agreed to a Resolution prohibiting paid advocacy. Under the advocacy rule it is wholly incompatible for a Member
(i) to accept payment for speaking in the House;
(ii) vote, ask a Parliamentary Question, table a motion, introduce a Bill or table or move an amendment to a motion or Bill or urge colleagues of Ministers to do so, on payment.
This Resolution does not prevent a Member from holding a remunerated outside interest as a director, consultant, or adviser, or in any other capacity, whether or not such interests are related to membership of the House.
There is no prohibition on sponsorship of a Member by a trade union or any other organisation, or holding any other registrable interest or from receiving hospitality in course of Member's parliamentary duties.
1995 Resolution vis-a-vis 1947 Resolution
- The Resolution of 1995 extended and reinforced the Resolution of 1947 which stipulated that a Member may not enter into any contractual arrangement which fetters the member's complete independence in Parliament by any undertaking to press some particular point of view on behalf of an outside interest.
Guidelines on the application of the advocacy rule
- The Committee on Standards and Privileges laid down certain guidelines on the application of the advocacy rule. The key aspects touched upon in the guidelines areinitiating a parliamentary proceeding; participation in debate etc., and constituency interest.
Parameters to the operation of the advocacy rule
- The Committee on Standards and Privileges had laid down parameters to the operation of the advocacy rule which can be broadly stated as follows:
(i) The advocacy rule and registrable interests
(ii) Past, present and future benefits
(iii) Continuing benefits
(iv) "One-Off" benefits
(v) Family benefits
(vi) Family benefits
(vii) Visits to United Kingdom dependency.
Responsibility of the Member
- As in the rules of the House relating to registration and declaration of interest, the main responsibility for observation of the rule on advocacy lies with the individual Member.
IV. Procedure for Complaints
- The following procedure has been laid down for complaints alleging violation of Code of Conduct
I. Complaints alleging that conduct of a member is incompatible with the Code of Conduct or to the Guide can be made by members and also member of public.
II. Such complaints have to be addressed in writing to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.
III. The Select Committee on Member' Interests-1992-93 in their First Report, opined that "It is not sufficient to make an unsubstantiated allegation and expect the Committee to assemble the supporting evidence" and that is "would not normally regard a complaint founded upon no more than a newspaper story or television report as a substantiated allegation."
Both the Commissioner and the Committee on Standards and Privileges are to be guided by this view.
IV. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is not to entertain anonymous complaints.
V. The receipt of a complaint by the Commissioner is not to be interpreted as an indication that a prima facie case has been established.
VI. In case the Commissioner decides that the complaint does not have substance to merit further reference to the Committee, he many, at his discretion reject the complaint. If the Commissioner is satisfied that sufficient evidence has been tendered in support of the complaint to justify his taking matter further, he may seek comments of the Member and conduct a preliminary inquiry. After preliminary inquiry, if the commissioner decides that there is no prima facie case, he has to report that conclusion briefly to the Committee. On the Contrary, if he finds that there is a prima facie case or that the complaint raises issues of wider importance, he has to report the facts and his conclusions to the Committee.
VII. The Committee on Standards and Privileges then considers any matter relating to the conduct of Members, including specific complaints in relation to alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct, or Guide to which the House has agreed and which have been drawn to the Committee's attention by the Commissioner.
VIII. The Committee has power under its Standing Order to send for persons, papers and records.
IX. While it is the practice of the Committee to deliberate in private, the Committee may also hold public sessions and is empowered to refuse leave for the broadcasting of any public sessions.
X. On specific complaints on which the Commissioner has decided there is a prima facie case, the Committee has to make recommendations to the House on whether further action is required. Committee is also empowered to report to the House on other complaints if it deems fit.