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Code of Conduct: Leader's Group

Volume 710: debated on Thursday 21 May 2009

Statement

My Lords, following yesterday’s agreement to the reports of the Committee for Privileges, I have undertaken to inform the House of the next steps in relation to the code of conduct. Today, I have set up a Leader’s Group with the terms of reference as follows: to consider the code of conduct and the rules relating to Members’ interests and to make recommendations. I am delighted to say that the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, has agreed to chair the group. The other members will be my noble friend Lady Jay of Paddington, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, the noble Lords, Lord Kingsland and Lord MacGregor of Pulham Market, and my noble friend Lord Hart of Chilton.

The group expects to meet during the first week of June, immediately after the Whitsun Recess, with a view to reporting back to me before the end of the current Session. I will take any findings to the Committee for Privileges and it will ultimately be for the House to approve any recommendations. Once the House has implemented such recommendations, in due course I would look for them to be administered by the proposed independent parliamentary regulator, to which I alerted the House yesterday.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for giving me early sight of her brief Statement this morning, and I very much welcome the announcement of the Leader’s Group to look at the code of conduct. However, I am less clear as to why she added the last paragraph about the independent parliamentary regulator, as yesterday it appeared that we know very little about that post. As the noble Baroness has mentioned it, I wonder whether she is in a position this morning to tell us a little bit more about when we can expect legislation, how the consultation process is to take place, whether the Government will publish a Green Paper or a White Paper, and whether she believes that legislation will be on the statute book before the next general election.

My Lords, I welcome the setting up of this group—to borrow an American phrase, there will not have been so much talent around one table since Thomas Jefferson dined alone. I also share the concern expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, about our relationship with this new parliamentary body. It would be a good lesson for this House if we proceeded with caution.

My Lords, I entirely agree that we need to proceed with caution, and I am grateful to both noble Lords for making that point. I was simply trying to be coherent and consistent with what I said yesterday. I do not have any further information about the new body now, but I think that it is terribly important that we continue our work as a House and do what we know needs to be done. As soon as I have further information relating to potential legislation, I will of course come to the House.