The Ministry of Justice is publishing today guidance for all candidates at the forthcoming general election to assist them in issuing a declaration of their employment and other interests. The guidance has been produced in response to one of the recommendations contained in the twelfth report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) on MPs’ expenses and allowances. The report said:
All candidates at parliamentary elections should publish, at nomination, a register of interests including the existence of other paid jobs and whether they intend to continue to hold them, if elected. The Ministry of Justice should issue guidance on this in time for the next general election. Following the election, consideration should be given as to whether the process should become a statutory part of the nominations process.1
All parties accepted the report’s recommendations.
The guidance recommends that candidates issue a declaration of their interests against a number of categories. These are largely based on the categories of interest that sitting MPs are required to declare in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, with appropriate modifications and additions. These reflect the broader purpose of the candidate declaration of interests, as envisaged by the CSPL report, which is to enable the public to find out more about the background of candidates.
In line with the report’s recommendation, the guidance is advisory only. It makes recommendations of best practice which candidates are encouraged to follow in making a declaration. However, candidates are under no obligation to issue a declaration or to follow the guidance in doing so. Candidates will face no legal sanction should they choose not to publish a declaration, or as a result of the information that they do or do not declare.
Copies of the guidance have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. The guidance has been published on the Ministry of Justice website. The Electoral Commission has also agreed to make a copy of the guidance available through its website. I will be writing to the leaders of all major parties to alert them to publication of the guidance. Separately, officials within the Ministry of Justice will contact directly those prospective parliamentary candidates for whom details are known at the point of publication of the guidance. However, it will ultimately be for candidates to make themselves aware of this guidance.
1 MPs’ Expenses and Allowances, November 2009, p89.