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Monday 01 November 2021

FDA welcomes Committee on Standards in Public Life recommendations for Ministerial Code reform

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FDA General Secretary Dave Penman welcomed the "comprehensive report" from the Committee on Standards in Public Life on Upholding Standards in Public Life, saying it details "where urgent action is needed to restore public faith in those either elected or appointed to serve the public’s interests".

Penman argued that the report's nine recommendations on the Ministerial Code "could not come at a more opportune time", with the FDA's recent survey of members showing that 85% of senior civil servants - those working closest to ministers - had no faith in the code as a means of regulation of ministerial behaviour.

"As recommended by the committee, placing the Ministerial Code on a statutory footing and reconstituting it solely as a code of conduct would help provide clarity over its purpose and underpin it as the regulator of ministerial ethical standards, rather than the mish mash of functions it has today."

Penman also welcomed the recommendations that the Independent Adviser should be able to initiate investigations without the consent of the Prime Minister, arguing this was "essential if the code is to have a meaningful independent function", and that the Independent Adviser should be able to determine whether the code has been breached, leaving it for the Prime Minister to determine sanction from a range of options.

He also told the Guardian that "there can be no hiding from the fact that the current Prime Minister has undermined confidence in the Ministerial Code as a meaningful regulator of ministerial conduct", but pointed out that existing arrangements already fell short of the independence required to be effective:

"As the committee recognises, the independent process that has now been established in Parliament, whilst far from perfect, provides a model for the approach that the public can rightly expect to regulating and enforcing standards on those they elect to serve their interests."

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