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The Nolan Principles are governing standards for elected officials but many have been quick to question if they are sufficient in the wake of the Owen Paterson scandal. The Speaker of the House of Commons today said last week’s row over MP standards and Mr Paterson was a “very dark week for Parliament” as he called for a “painful” but cleansing debate on the sleaze scandal.

What are the Nolan Principles?

The Nolan Principles, also known as the Seven Principles of Public Life, apply to anyone who works as a public office-holder.

These are a set of rules for those who are elected or appointed to public office, nationally and locally.

All people who are appointed to work in the Civil Service, local government, the police, courts and probation services, non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs), and in the health, education, social and care services must adhere to these rules.

The Nolan Principles are:

  • Selflessness: Holders must act solely in terms of public interest
  • Integrity: Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work – and they should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. In addition, they must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.
  • Objectivity: Holders should act impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.
  • Accountability: Holders are accountable to the public for their own decisions and actions and should submit themselves to scrutiny when required.
  • Openness: Holders should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner – making sure not to withhold information from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for doing so.
  • Honesty: They must be truthful.
  • Leadership: They should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour and treat others with respect meaning they should also actively promote and robustly support the principles and challenge poor behaviour when it occurs.

These principles guide MPs and other elected officials on their behaviour and the standards expected of them.

MP standards have come into sharp focus in recent days after accusations of bias and corruption were made in relation to the Owen Paterson row.

The former environment secretary was found to have broken lobbying rules in regards to his consultancy work for Randox.

The diagnostics company was awarded a coronavirus testing contract worth £133 million at the start of the pandemic – days later the Government was forced to confirm the company did not have enough equipment to meet demand.

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Last week, MPs voted in favour of preventing a suggested 30-day suspension of Mr Paterson from the House of Commons in relation to the scandal.

Following the vote, many shouted “shame” within the Commons chamber and Opposition MPs were quick to criticise the Government.

The mounting pressure forced the Government to make a U-turn a day later and announce a new vote would be held this week.

However, in response to this announcement, Mr Paterson issued a retirement statement and said he wished to leave “the cruel world of politics”.

On Monday, MPs gathered for an emergency meeting about the standards of MPs.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is demanding an apology from the Prime Minister and calling on action to be taken to prevent further corruption.

Boris Johnson has however refused to apologise for the row over standards.

He said: “What we’ve got to make sure is that we take all this very, very seriously and that we get it right.

“There’s a debate today, unfortunately, I can’t be there because I had a long-standing engagement up here.”

He added: “I don’t think there’s much more to be said about that particular case, I really don’t, but what we do need to do is look also at the process, and that is what we were trying to do last week.”

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