Welcome to the blog of the Committee on Standards in Public Life. The Committee wants to get your views to help them in their current Review looking at what works best in promoting high standards of ethical behaviour. The Committee is particularly interested in your responses to the weekly posts by Committee members who will be blogging about Review themes which are important to them. But they also want to hear your views on the general themes of the Review: What drives good ethical standards? What makes individuals and organisations do the right thing? What role does ethical regulation play?

The blog will run for six weeks (from early September until mid-October) and the team will be posting new contributions, updates and responses at least twice a week. All comments and contributions will be seen by the Committee as long as they meet the terms and conditions of our blog policy. All contributions will be moderated before they are posted but please note that the Committee cannot respond on individual cases (see terms and conditions for more details).

Ministerial involvement in civil service appointments

October 10, 2012

  In a speech at the Institute for Government on 2 October, Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude set out his case for giving ministers a greater role in the appointment of permanent secretaries, in a week in which the mishandled West Coast rail franchise decision kept the issue of civil service accountability in the spotlight. [...]

Leading by example

October 9, 2012

Nolan included leadership as one of his seven principles of public life and it seems to me that it’s the key for organisations wanting to achieve high standards of ethical behaviour.  It’s no good senior managers asking people to adhere to stringent standards if they are not prepared to meet those same standards themselves.  People [...]

Beyond transparency?

October 1, 2012

Transparency is often put forward as a panacea which will solve all ills.   A few of those we have spoken to have implied that we could do away with all ethical regulators and rely solely on the effectiveness of the British media to identify potential and actual problems in the public sector.  But the [...]

“Don’t be evil” – Walking the Talk

September 26, 2012

  ‘Learning from the best in the private sector’ is a key message from the Prime Minister in the Government’s new plan for reforming the Civil Service.   ‘How does that translate in the field of ethics? We know that some parts of the private sector have certainly picked up on the idea that ethics can [...]

Regulators can make rules and enforce them, but can they inculcate the right values?

September 24, 2012

The Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) is the Commons select committee which scrutinises the Cabinet Office and the Civil Service, and looks at the work of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, the Charities Commission, the Public Appointments Commission and the UK Statistics Authority.  It also covers the ethical issues which face Government.  The Committee [...]

Prevention better than cure

September 19, 2012

Whether at national or local level, misconduct by politicians always makes good headlines. Sometimes these are the results of action by a rogue individual, but sometimes too it comes about because of a failure of culture and leadership which has allowed problems to build up over time to a point where people lose sight of [...]

Self regulation or external watchdogs?

September 17, 2012

  What  is the right relationship between ethical regulators and the people they regulate? Why should there be an external regulator to enforce ethical standards? Shouldn’t people want to behave ethically just because it’s the ‘right thing to do’?  Some people have told us that certain organisations or industries cannot be regulated except by their [...]

Don’t make the best the enemy of the good

September 12, 2012

Time and again in reform of the House of Lords the best has become the enemy of the good.    While the overwhelming majority of members of the Lords have been keen to see improvements in the way we operate, and have indeed voted for it on a number of occasions, the Government plans for ‘big [...]

Early warning signals….

September 10, 2012

What is it about some organisations that make it possible to identify problems before a crisis is reached? How do you capture that ethos? Looking at the Francis report on the failures at Mid Staffs Foundation Trust http://tinyurl.com/338rarg the scale and depth of the problems were facilitated by the closed culture of the hospital. Staff turned [...]

Striking the right balance

September 5, 2012

  Re –reading Nolan’s original report I’m struck not only by its clarity but also the assumption that establishing ethical regulation would have a straightforward, positive impact on public trust.   The public surveys we’ve done don’t bear out this assumption.  And at our recent seminar on ethics and Parliament there was a sense from some [...]


September 3, 2012

Welcome to our blog on ethics in public life. This is a new departure for the Committee and we hope it will stimulate discussion and allow us to test out what we have been hearing as part of our review on a wider audience.  The blog will run for six weeks and the team will [...]