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Nolan Principles of Public Life

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Nolan Principles of Public Life

The Committee on Standards in Public Life is an advisory non-departmental public body of the United Kingdom Government.

The Committee on Standards in Public Life is constituted as a standing body with its members appointed for up to three years.


The committee was established in October 1994 by Prime Minister John Major in response to concerns that conduct by some politicians was unethical - for example, during the cash-for-questions affair.[1]

The Committee's original terms of reference were:[2]

To examine current concerns about standards of conduct of all holders of public office, including arrangements relating to financial and commercial activities, and make recommendations as to any changes in present arrangements which might be required to ensure the highest standards of propriety in public life.

The term "public office" includes ministers, civil servants and advisers; Members of Parliament and UK Members of the European Parliament; Members and senior officers of all non-departmental public bodies and of national health service bodies; non-ministerial office holders; members and other senior officers of other bodies discharging publicly funded functions; and elected members and senior officers of local authorities.[3]

First report

The Committee's First Report established The Seven Principles of Public Life, also known as the "Nolan principles".[4] They are included in the Ministerial Code. They are:[4]

  • Selflessness – Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other benefits for themselves, their family or their friends.
  • Integrity – Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties.
  • Objectivity – In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.
  • Accountability – Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.
  • Openness – Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.
  • Honesty – Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.
  • Leadership – Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.

Later reports

In 1997, Tony Blair extended the Committee's terms of reference: "To review issues in relation to the funding of political parties, and to make recommendations as to any changes in present arrangements."[5]


The Committee on Standards in Public Life is an independent advisory non-departmental public body (NDPB).[5] The Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments oversees the competitive appointment of seven members, supplemented by three positions nominated by each of the main three political parties.[5] It lacks any statutory powers, with no ability to compel witnesses or bring about its recommendations.[5] It does not investigate individual misconduct.[6]

As of September 2011, the Committee was made up of Sir Christopher Kelly, KCB (Chair), The Lord Alderdice, Margaret Beckett MP, Lloyd Clarke, Oliver Heald MP, Alun Michael MP, Sir Derek Morris, Dame Denise Platt, David Prince, Dr Brian Woods-Scawen and Dr Elizabeth Vallance.[7] The Chair is paid a salary of £50,000 and members not already paid a public salary receive £240 for each day they work on Commons business, in addition to expenses.[7]

On 12 July 2013, it was announced from 10 Downing Street, that Lord Bew had been appointed the new Committee Chair, replacing David Price who had been acting Chair since 1 April 2013.





External links

  • Official website
  • Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards
  • Register of Members' Interests
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