ACTION MUST BE TAKEN to reverse the decline in standards in public life if parliament and our democracy are not to be undermined, Ruth Cadbury told other MPs at a Westminster Hall debate on 7 September.

Ahead of the debate into the Seven Principles of Public Life, led by Paula Barker MP, Quakers in Britain briefed 60 MPs on the importance of truth and integrity.

Quakers believe truth and integrity are essential to a moral and productive life. Without truth and integrity from government, public trust breaks down and the electorate become disillusioned, they told MPs. This offers a platform to those presenting undemocratic, unfair and non-inclusive alternatives.

“As a Quaker, truth and integrity is also embedded in my core”, Cadbury, MP for Brentford and Isleworth, told MPs. But, she said: “Over the past three years, we have seen a bonfire of ethics and integrity.”

The Seven Principles of Public Life (also known as the Nolan Principles) set expectations for behaviour and attitudes in public life, and a benchmark against which they can be measured. Established in 1994, the seven principles are: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. They apply to elected officials, the Civil Service, police, courts, probation service, doctors, teachers and many more.

But “We are concerned that existing rules and frameworks have been insufficient to protect truth and integrity in public life,” Quakers in Britain told MPs. In recent years we have seen a marked decline in the standards in public office, including a frequently casual attitude towards the truth.”

Chris Bryant MP, chair of the Committee on Standards, called for radical reform to improve the system. He told MPs: “We think that all Members of Parliament should be treated equally under the rules of the House.”

Following a deepening concern over the decline of ethics in public office, the Quaker Truth and Integrity Group was recognised as a Quaker body in March this year. Quakers in Britain are working with MPs, peers and staff to explore the problem and potential solutions.

* Read the full debate transcript in Hansard here.

* Source: Quakers in Britain