Statement | Committee on Standards / Owen Patterson MP

Hi all

Please see below statement with regards to attempts to scrap the cross-party Committee on Standards and replace it with a Conservative-dominated committee following an adjudication that found Conservative MP, Owen Patterson, guilty of an ‘egregious case of paid advocacy.’

If you agree with this statement please retweet:

Kevin Keith, Chair of the UK Open Government Network, said:

“On Monday the Committee on Standards in Public Life published a report on upholding standards. It revealed that over three quarters of the British public agree that ethical standards in government are important for making democracy work (76%) and for preventing people using power for their own ends (77%).

“It also revealed that over 40% of the public view the standards of conduct of Ministers (41%) and MPs (44%) as low or very low.”

“It is shocking therefore, that just two days after publication the government is seeking to scrap the cross-party Committee on Standards and replace it with a Conservative-dominated committee. This is following an adjudication that found a Conservative MP guilty of an ‘egregious case of paid advocacy.’"

“The only possible inference to take from this action is that the government holds the public in utter contempt when it comes to ethical standards.”

“Whilst so often called the Nolan Principles, a more accurate descriptor of the Seven Principles of Public Life would be the People’s Principles. They are standards of conduct in public life which we are entitled to expect, not what the government can expect of itself."

“So we urge the government to reconsider its actions and work with civil society on a public standards commitment in the National Action Plan for Open Government, particularly as we approach the International Summit of Democracy later this year.”


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Really appreciate you challenging this. I saw the article this morning and wondered just what the tipping point of corruption needs to be to build a momentum of protest that will even touch the sides with this Government.

Yes. Citizens living in Newcastle under Lyme, are also very concerned with the Standards in Public Life. Far too often now the police in particular act as a rogue corporations private police force. Whether at Walley’s Quarry Silverdale, Newcastle under Lyme Staffs or amidst the workings of HS2 also in Staffordshire. The police use odd law to disrupt legal protest - well they are lawful now- these tools of disruption used by police lead to charges, charges discontinued through lack of evidence when the citizen is on the cusp of arriving at court. Clearly then there was no evidence of wrong in the first place. Is the court system now going to start asking pertinent question about why citizens going about their lawful business are being arrested and then charged. This act by the police is unlawful and must be addressed by the courts. When the police are asked who gave the orders to arrest they say their political masters. That means those political masters, too often receiving personal payments via rogue companies, use their powers to quash lawful dissent. We rest our case.

Thanks for this statement, Kevin - it’s good to see a response.

Instead of urging the government to work on an NAP commitment that it has no interest in implementing, I would instead like to ask a question of government: when its actions demonstrate that the only standard in public life that matters is political expediency, how will government maintain the integrity of the OGP process and retain the confidence and goodwill of civil society?

The Campaign for Better Democracy GB&NI

5th November 2021

A lesson from the Standards in Public Life affair involving Owen Paterson MP. Questions raised about genuine RECALL by voters


As usual in matters of public governance, the people, electorate, appear to be regarded as marginal figures, spectators of state affairs and, in this case of an accused (now 4.11.2021 resigned) MP, as wolves. The tory brother- and sisterhood at Westminster were more than wary of the risk that their fellow MP might be “sentenced” to a suspension long enough to enable a constituency recall procedure to be conducted by citizen electors, “voters”. In the tory fold there was a sense that, “We must not let him be thrown to the wolf pack!”, a sense which might partly explain the apparently desperate, irrational and unparliamentary tactics which were initially tried.

Perhaps we exaggerate slightly in some points. But a touch of hyperbole may – justifiably – be applied to add support and draw interest to a following argument:

After the Paterson affair, in the Westminster bubble there will probably be efforts and public resources to “improve” the regulation and supervision of MP behaviour – “principles of public life”. It is at least if not more important to improve the quality of our democracy, especially the options and means for citizens to take part effectively in our government. This case has reminded us that the people of a constituency have the democratic right not only to choose, elect and so appoint an MP to represent their interests but also the right to remove that person from office. The rulers in our centralised, self-protecting systems of governance have strived and legislated to keep democracy weak, to minimise effective citizen participation in our own government. In the case of “recall” the tricks included (a) Preventing the electorate from independently initiating a recall procedure, (b) Installing a committee with grandee politicians, without whose approval a recall cannot occur (c) Limiting the “acceptable” reasons for recall to non-political matters such as the ethical, criminal or financial. The latter “c” tactic is the most scandalous, an attempt to weaken – yea to castrate – the democratic rights and powers of the people. The recall as it is practised in democratic states is a method by which the people can remove an elected employee or delegate or representative who has lost their confidence – for whatever reason. A seat in parliament is a political office. To exclude political reasons for recall is more than unreasonable, it is absurd. If an MP fails to well represent the electors then they have a right to independently instigate a recall procedure.

In pleading and attempting to legislate for the recall in the UK a well known politician has gone against the grain of prevailing centralised “control freakery”.

We quote a House of Commons Library report*, Section 8.3 The Recall of Elected Representatives Bill 2010-12

"The Recall of Elected Representatives Bill 2010-12 was introduced by Zac Goldsmith as a Presentation Bill (under Standing Order No. 57) on 26 July 2010. The Bill made provision for voters to recall their elected representatives in specified circumstances.

He subsequently introduced private Members’ Bills on recall in every session of the 2010-15 Parliament.
In an article in the Hounslow Chronicle, Goldsmith said that recall “…is a right that should exist at every level, from councillor to MP, and it should not be subject to approval by a central authority”.

On 8 September 2010 Goldsmith secured a Westminster Hall debate on direct democracy initiatives.
During the debate he said: True recall allows people to sack their representatives, for whatever reason, if a majority have lost confidence in them, and it certainly is not subject to approval by a central authority. (emphasis added)"

*Recall elections. House of Commons Library Briefing Paper Number 5089, 2 June2021

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DISCUSS – you can comment at Open Government Network Statement | Committee on Standards / Owen Patterson MP