Committee on Standards in Public Life

The Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) is an advisory non-departmental public body of the United Kingdom Government, established in 1994 to advise the Prime Minister on ethical standards of public life.


The Committee on Standards in Public Life is an independent advisory non-departmental public body, with a secretariat and budget provided by the Cabinet Office. It is responsible for:[1]

The Committee does not investigate individual allegations of misconduct, that being the role of the relevant regulator.

The Committee is made up of the chair, five independent members appointed by the Prime Minister following open competition, and three political members appointed by the Prime Minister on the recommendation of the leaders of the Labour Party, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrat Party.[2]

As of 2015, the Committee members were Lord Paul Bew (Chair), The Lord Alderdice, The Rt Hon Dame Margaret Beckett DBE MP, Sheila Drew Smith OBE, Patricia Moberly, Richard Thomas CBE, Dame Angela Watkinson DBE MP.[3]


The Committee was initially established in October 1994 by the Prime Minister, John Major, in response to concerns that conduct by some politicians was unethical—-for example, during the cash-for-questions affair.[4]

1994 terms of reference

The Committee's original terms of reference were:[5]

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" was defined to include 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.[6]

First report, 1995

The Committee's First Report[7] in 1995 established The Seven Principles of Public Life, also known as the "Nolan principles". They were:[7]

1997 terms of reference

In November 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."[8]

2013 terms of reference

On 5 February 2013, the Committee's terms of reference were clarified in two ways – (1): ‘…in future the Committee should not inquire into matters relating to the devolved legislatures and governments except with the agreement of those bodies’, and (2): ‘…the Committee’s remit to examine “standards of conduct of all holders of public office” [encompasses] all those involved in the delivery of public services, not solely those appointed or elected to public office.'[9]

2013 clarification

The terms of reference were further clarified on 28 February 2013 to explain that the Committee "can examine issues relating to the ethical standards of the delivery of public services by private and voluntary sector organisations, paid for by public funds, even where those delivering the services have not been appointed or elected to public office.”

Notable members

This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.

List of past Committee chairmen

The Seven Principles of Public life

The Seven Principles of Public Life have been amended over the years. They are currently (2015) worded as follows:[11]



  1. "Committee on Standards in Public Life/About". Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  2. "Membership". Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  3. "Members". Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  4. Leopold (2004). p. 417.
  5. House of Commons Library, Committee on Standards in Public Life, SN/PC/04888, 11 November 2008
  6. Leopold (2004). pp. 417–418.
  7. 1 2 First Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (1995). p. 14.
  8. Annual Report 2010–11 (2011). p. 14.
  9. "Terms of reference". Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  10. Annual Report 2010–11 (2011). p. 16.
  11. "The 7 principles of public life". Retrieved 17 November 2015.


External links

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