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Standards Committee

2nd Report 2003

Annual Report of the Standards Committee for the Parliamentary Year
12 May 2002 to 26 March 2003

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SP Paper 805

Session 1 (2003)

 

Remit and membership (12 May 2002 - 26 March 2003)

Remit:

1. The remit of the Standards Committee is to consider and report on-

(a) whether a member's conduct is in accordance with these Rules and any Code of Conduct for members, matters relating to members' interests, and any other matters relating to the conduct of members in carrying out their Parliamentary duties; and

(b) the adoption, amendment and application of any Code of Conduct for members.

2. Where the Committee considers it appropriate, it may by motion recommend that a member's rights and privileges be withdrawn to such extent and for such period as are specified in the motion.

(Standing Orders of the Scottish Parliament, Rule 6.5)

Membership:

Mr Mike Rumbles (Convener)

Susan Deacon

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Mr Kenneth Macintosh

Paul Martin

Tricia Marwick (Deputy Convener)

Mrs Kay Ullrich

Committee Clerking Team:

Clerk to the Committee

Sam Jones

Senior Assistant Clerk

Sarah Robertson

Office Manager

Emma Berry (to 31 January 2003)

 

Standards Committee

2nd Report 2003

Annual Report of the Standards Committee for the Parliamentary Year 12 May 2002 to 26 March 2003

The Committee reports to the Parliament as follows-

Introduction

1. Throughout the first Parliamentary Session, the Standards Committee has striven to establish and maintain the high standards of conduct associated with the Parliament's elected representatives.

2. To this end, the Standards Committee proposed that there should be a Standards Commissioner to investigate complaints against MSPs. The Standards Commissioner would conduct such investigations independently of the Committee and Parliament. In addition, the Committee recommended that the Commissioner should have statutory powers to summon witnesses and to compel the production of evidence.

3. The passing by the Scottish Parliament of the Scottish Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Bill on 27 June 2002 was the culmination of the single biggest piece of work undertaken by the Standards Committee during this first Session. It marked the successful conclusion of a journey which began with the Committee's 4th Report 2000, Models of Investigations of Complaints, which recommended the creation of a statutory post. The Bill, introduced as a Committee Bill, was passed by unanimous vote in the Parliament.

4. The Parliament agreed to appoint Dr Jim Dyer, currently Director of the Mental Welfare Commission, as Standards Commissioner with effect from April 2003 following an open recruitment process. In the interim period, William Spence (previously the Standards Adviser) is serving as Acting Commissioner until Dr Dyer can take up his appointment.

5. The Scottish Parliament is increasingly being seen as being at the cutting edge of developments in standards of public life. Its work on the Standards Commissioner Act has been examined closely at Westminster, Cardiff and Belfast. In May 2002, the Convener was invited to give evidence to the Committee on Standards in Public Life (the `Wicks Committee') in connection with its inquiry into standards of conduct at the House of Commons at the only evidence session to be held outside London. In addition, the Deputy Convener spoke at an international conference in Budapest on lobbying in October 2002 to discuss the Committee's work in this arena.

Inquiries and Reports

6. The Committee published nine reports in its final year. Two dealt with complaints against Members.

Scottish Parliament and Business Exchange

7. The Committee published a report on the structure and operation of the Business Exchange following an inquiry in November 2002. The report found that the hybrid status of The Exchange was unacceptable and recommended a fundamental review of its structure and accountability to the Parliament. The Board of The Exchange is considering all the Committee's recommendations.

Cross-Party Groups (CPGs)

8. The end of the Session was a timely point to review the operation and rules relating to CPGs. The Committee published a consultation document on CPGs in summer 2002. Following a review of the responses, the Committee commissioned independent research. The Committee hopes that this will help form a revised and robust framework for CPGs in the Parliament.

9. Other reports have been covered in relevant sections of this report.

Bills

10. The Standards Committee is one of only three Parliamentary Committees to have introduced a Committee Bill. The Scottish Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Bill was introduced on 4 February 2002. It was only the second Committee Bill to be passed by the Scottish Parliament in this Session.

11. The Committee has rounded off the Session with the publication of its draft Bill to replace the existing Scotland Act 1998 (Transitory and Transitional Provisions) (Members' Interests) Order 1999 (the MIO). Under the MIO, the Scottish Parliament already has a tough regime in place for dealing with the registration and declaration of Members' interests. Failure to register or declare an interest or paid advocacy is a criminal offence unlike Westminster.

12. The key changes proposed in the draft Bill include the mandatory registration by MSPs of non-pecuniary interests (such as membership of professional associations, trade unions and organisations such as the Freemasons); the declaration of the market value of shareholdings as opposed to the current `nominal' value which is the share price at issue; MSPs to be required to register all gifts worth more than 0.5% of an MSP's salary (currently £241) received in connection with their Parliamentary duties.

Subordinate Legislation and Petitions

13. The Committee has not dealt with any subordinate legislation or petitions in this year.

Meetings

14. The Committee met 13 times from 12 May 2002 to 26 March 2003. Of these meetings, none were entirely in private but nine were partly in private. Of the 11 items considered in private, five were to consider either a Committee or an Adviser's report on complaints against Members (the Committee's decisions on these complaints were always made in public, however); three were to consider either legislation for the Scottish Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Bill or the replacement legislation for the Member's Interest Order; two were to consider the appointment of the Parliament's first Standards Commissioner; and one was to consider a draft Committee Report following an inquiry.

15. All meetings were held in Edinburgh.

 

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