Doing the right thing?
Authors: David Hine and Gillian Peele

Integrity issues have become an important item on the British political agenda since the 1990s when ‘sleaze’ prompted John Major to set up the Committee on Standards in Public Life. The book analyses the range of ethical problems which confront the political system and the efforts to address them. It addresses the tightening of standards in response to misconduct in Parliament, in central and local government and in the devolved systems. It also addresses perennial ethical questions such as lobbying and party funding which continue to trouble the United Kingdom as they do other major democracies. The chief purpose of the book is to understand the regulatory dilemmas which face policy-makers as they struggle to produce new machinery and codes to tackle the risk of misconduct. Thus we examine, for example, the choice between self-regulation and independent regulation, decisions about the amount of transparency required of office-holders, and how to achieve proportionality in the balance between perceived problems and regulatory burdens. We also attempt to assess the impact of more than two decades of ethical engineering on the office holders and the public.

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A changing agenda
David Hine and Gillian Peele

to integrity issues. We identify the drivers of change in the handling of ethical issues in British public life both historically and more recently. We argue that the United Kingdom’s distinctive experience of the transition to democratic government led it to address several integrity issues at a comparatively early stage in its democratic evolution:  between the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These issues included the opportunities for political patronage, the increasing power of lobbying pressure, and the rising costs of democratic partisan

in The regulation of standards in British public life
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Higher standards, lower credibility?
David Hine and Gillian Peele

another case, as is the shift in the basis of party finance from membership fees and dues to individual donations from very wealthy individuals. Right across the expanded public service, moreover, the role of money, rewards and incentives raises difficult questions about proper procedures and appropriate checks. The widening wealth gap in the United Kingdom in the last two decades has had the effect of pushing up top salaries in many areas of public and 294 The regulation of standards in British public life semi-public senior management; but how exactly salaries are

in The regulation of standards in British public life
David Hine and Gillian Peele

political autonomy and new institutional arrangements to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The timing of the establishment of the devolved systems (which were set up at the end of a decade in which ‘sleaze’ was high on the national agenda) made them keenly aware of 270 The regulation of standards in British public life the salience of integrity issues. Each of the devolved systems therefore created machinery to ensure that high ethical standards were enforced in such matters as legislative and ministerial conduct, public appointments and local government. Initially

in The regulation of standards in British public life
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Regulating public ethics in the United Kingdom
David Hine and Gillian Peele

have appeared over the traditional assumptions about the ethics prevailing in the public sector. The problem of how to sustain high standards in British public life has become a fixture of the political agenda, prompting a persistent and very wide-ranging debate involving political elites, the media and the public. Concern about ethics and propriety has also had a profound effect on the structures of government, bringing institutional innovations into many areas of politics and administration. Much effort has gone into sharpening the values which shape public life

in The regulation of standards in British public life
The Ministerial Code
David Hine and Gillian Peele

executive office-holders, whether ministers or civil servants, have the same general obligations of office, and in many jurisdictions are formally treated in the same way, there is a significant difference in lines of accountability. Accountability to legislatures both 154 The regulation of standards in British public life weakens and strengthens ministers. It weakens them because attacks on their integrity can easily be politicised and will often be exaggerated out of proportion for partisan gain. It strengthens them when their integrity is justifiably under question

in The regulation of standards in British public life
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Statutory regulation and its difficulties
David Hine and Gillian Peele

accountable. The expenses scandal in outline Long before the scandal erupted, the line between MPs’ expenses and remuneration had become steadily more blurred. Through the careful 106 The regulation of standards in British public life designation and re-designation of what was to count as a ‘first’ or a ‘second’ home (a practice known as ‘flipping’), MPs could at taxpayers’ expense make a handsome profit free of the capital gains tax normally payable when a second home is sold. In addition MPs could and did make claims, many of them apparently very extravagant, for

in The regulation of standards in British public life
The role of the Committee on Standards in Public Life
David Hine and Gillian Peele

parliamentary expenses. In that case the CSPL had already written to the prime minister indicating its decision to investigate the topic before Brown announced that he asked the CSPL to launch an inquiry. 54 The regulation of standards in British public life The Committee’s original remit (‘standards of conduct of all public office-holders’) was significantly extended in 1997 to include the funding of political parties. Much later, in 2013, the remit was further changed to take account of devolution, by removing the devolved governments from CSPL jurisdiction except with

in The regulation of standards in British public life
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Protecting civil-service impartiality
David Hine and Gillian Peele

controversial,2 as have the responses of some teachers to pupil-performance requirements.3 An extreme instance of this arose in UK water privatisation in 1989 where the earnings of the most senior strata of managers and directors rose dramatically in 168 The regulation of standards in British public life the years after privatisation and caused widespread comment that privatisation had very much served the interests of a specific class of public servants, some of whom would have provided the specialist advice that affected the terms on which privatisation was established.4

in The regulation of standards in British public life
Regulated office-holders, unregulated lobbies
David Hine and Gillian Peele

knowledge or expertise that is selectively shared with the office-holder. The sub-contracting to the non-governmental arena of regulatory functions over professional registration or product standards are obvious examples. A  substantial 198 The regulation of standards in British public life literature has arisen on regulatory capture in law, economics and political science, though it has generated little agreement on how influence is to be measured, or exactly how interests capture office-holders by setting the frames within which policy is understood.2 Further

in The regulation of standards in British public life