Ministerial standards commissioner needed to end suspicion

Green Party leader Steven Agnew MLA is calling for the creation of a standards commissioner for the Executive to investigate alleged breaches of the Ministerial Code of Conduct.

Speaking today, Monday 3 October, Steven Agnew MLA said,

“I was minded to introduce this amendment because non-Executive members of the assembly are rightly bound by the code of conduct for members. Any allegations of a breach can be independently investigated, a report is published and it can result in an assembly debate and sanction.

“In stark contrast, there is no process in place through which breaches of the Ministerial Code can be independently investigated. The defence that the mechanism for ensuring that the code is adhered to is the court system is a nonsense. Resorting to a judicial review to make a complaint about a Minister is beyond the means of most.

“This serves neither the person making the allegations or the person being accused, as there is never an independent process.”

Steven Agnew continued

“While alleged breaches are reasonably rare, breaches are potentially very serious given the authority of the Ministers.

“For example, First Minister Arlene Foster was alleged to have breached the code in 2011. As Minister for the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment, she did not declare that her husband owned land which her Department then licensed for fracking. If it had gone ahead, it would likely have led to payments for landowners.

“Suspicion remains and this serves neither the public nor the First Minister well.

“It is time this was changed and a standards commissioner was appointed.”


Notes to editors

Steven Agnew MLA’s amendment will be debated on Tuesday 4 October 2016 and is as follows:

Private Members’ Business
Item 4: Order Paper 19/16-21 – Tuesday 04 October 2016

Motion: Openness and Transparency from the Executive
That this Assembly expresses its concern at ongoing problems with openness and transparency from the Executive and the implications for public trust and confidence.
[Dr S Farry]
[Mr D Ford]
[Mrs N Long]
[Mr S Dickson]

The Speaker has selected the following Amendments for debate:
Amendment 1

At end insert:
‘; and calls for the creation of a standards commissioner for the Executive to investigate alleged breaches of the Ministerial Code.’
[Mr S Agnew]
[Mr A Attwood]
[Ms C Hanna]

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