TRUST in politics, and in the people and institutions of public life in the UK, is at an all-time low. The Institute for Government (IfG) has published a joint statement with the Constitution Unit and UK Governance Project,

The statement proposes seven steps for the new government to restore trust in the regulation of ethics in public life. The document sets out key priorities, all of which can be easily implemented straight after the election.

The IfG says that as soon as possible after the general election, to demonstrate clearly that a page has been turned, the prime minister should make a statement to parliament setting out his priorities for ethics and integrity in public life, including committing to:

  1. Publish, promote and provide independent enforcement of a new Ministerial Code designed to guide the ethical conduct of ministers.
  2. Enable ministers, senior public officials and special advisers to identify, manage and report conflicts of interest, by establishing a fair and robust new system.
  3. Ensure lobbying of ministers, senior public officials and special advisers is transparent, by building a new clear, coherent and consistent system.
  4. Regulate the post-government employment and appointments of ministers, civil servants and special advisers with a more rigorously enforced, fair and transparent system.
  5. Reform the appointments process to ensure that appointments to the House of Lords are made on merit, with the purpose of enhancing the work of parliament.
  6. Ensure public appointments are rigorous, delivered through an independent, transparent and timely process.
  7. Enhance the standing of the honours system by strengthening its independence and ending the practice of prime ministerial personal patronage.

These commitments are within the prime minister’s existing powers, including simply through issuing new instructions to the regulators. But in order to underpin the independence of the public ethics and integrity system for the long term, provide the powers necessary for it to effectively operate, and protect it from arbitrary change by a future government, the prime minister should introduce a short bill in the first session of parliament to give statutory backing to the existence of a Ministerial Code and to the key ethics watchdogs.

Time and space would remain later in the parliament to consult on and develop any longer-term detailed reforms to the ethics and integrity landscape.

* Read a more detailed explanation of the seven proposed steps here.

* Source: Institute for Government