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Committee on Standards of Conduct

Public Consultation: Proposed Measure to establish a statutory role of Commissioner for Standards  

Background

The Assembly can pass Welsh laws, known as Assembly Measures, on certain issues.

The National Assembly Commissioner for Standards is an independent person who is appointed by the Assembly. The main duties of the Commissioner are:

  • to examine facts about any complaint against an Assembly Member;

  • to give advice to the Committee on Standards of Conduct about general issues relating to the standards of conduct of Members, and the records that have to be kept, like Members' Interests and Membership of Societies; and

  • to provide help or advice the Assembly decides it needs, on issues relating to the standards of conduct of Assembly Members.

The National Assembly is not required by law to have a Commissioner for Standards but the Standards of Conduct Committee thinks that this is an important issue and would like to propose that a law is passed that says there must be a Commissioner for Standards of Conduct in Wales.

To help the Committee to decide what to include in its proposal for a Measure, the Committee is consulting with people about some of the most important questions about the role and independence of the Commissioner for Standards.

There are three main questions the committee has decided to ask. They are

1. Is there a need for an Assembly Measure to establish a statutory role of Commissioner for Standards?

2. What should the role of the Commissioner for Standards be?

3. What fundamental principles should underpin the establishment of the Office?

In addition to these, the committee would appreciate more detailed views on the following questions:   (there is a full list of the more detailed questions attached as a separate document you can download here).

Status of the Commissioner

The Auditor-General for Wales and the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales are "watchdog” bodies which are independent of the National Assembly for Wales and established in law.

  • Should the status of the Commissioner for Standards be established in law in the same way?

Role and responsibilities

In which of the following areas should the Commissioner for Standards have a role:

  • advising Assembly Members on their conduct as well as receiving and investigating complaints?

  • giving general advice on standards of conduct?

  • promoting a framework for high standards in public life?

Powers

  • Should the Commissioner for Standards have independent discretion to decide whether or not a complaint merits investigation or to initiate an investigation?

  • Should he/she have powers to be able to summon persons, and require papers and records to be provided?

Reporting

  • Should the Commissioner for Standards have the ability to make findings and conclusions public?

  • Should he/she report directly to the Assembly, or to the Standards of Conduct Committee?

Appointment

The Auditor-General for Wales and the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales are currently appointed by the Monarch on the recommendation of the Assembly.

  • How should the Commissioner for Standards be appointed?

  • How long should he/she be appointed for?

(The Commissioner for Standards is currently appointed for a 4 year period. The Auditor-General for Wales is appointed for 5 years and the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales for 7 years. The Scottish Standards Commissioner is appointed for 6 years and the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner of 5 years.)

Funding and staff

The current Commissioner for Standards is paid an annual retainer and receives fees on a basis of days worked. The posts of Auditor-General for Wales and the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales are funded from the Welsh Consolidated Fund.

  • How should the post of Commissioner for Standards be funded?

The Commissioner for Standards is currently supported by Assembly Parliamentary Service staff, who are not appointed exclusively to support his work.

  • Should the Standards Commissioner have dedicated staff and should he/she be able to appoint his/her own staff, or be supported by another organisation such as the office of the Public Services Ombudsman?

Other issues

  • Should the Commissioner for Standards have the same role relating to Ministers as for other Assembly Members?

  • What will be the practicalities of making the system work and how should the proposed Measure make provision for these?

How to send your views

If you would like to have a say you can e-mail your views to standards@wales.gsi.gov.uk. (Please put Consultation in the subject line).

Alternatively you can post a disc or letter to Lara Date, Committee Service, National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff Bay, CF99 1NA.

  • The Committee welcomes contributions in English and Welsh and will consider the responses that have been received in the autumn. The views will inform the development of the proposed Measure.

  • The closing date for submissions is Friday 6 September 2008.

  • Please label your responses under the headings given above (or if you use the full list of consultation questions label your responses with the same numbers).

  • The National Assembly normally makes responses to public consultation available for anyone to see and they may also be discussed at Committee meetings. If you do not want your response or name published, it is important that you make this clear as part of your submission;

Please let us know if you are responding on behalf of an organisation, or as an individual.

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