Headlines: June 16th, 1998

An investigation into the personal liability of people serving on councils, NHS trusts and other public bodies has recommended better guidance about what could be at stake. It has set public service organisations a twelve month deadline to issue the guidance, aimed at giving confidence to people for whom worries about personal risk are a deterrent to entering public service.

It has also urged new legislation to help clarify the risks across the range of public service organisations – from acting as a NHS Trust chair, to helping out for a charity.

The study, carried out for the Committee on Standards in Public Life, concludes that while the risk of legal action to such people as a result of their decisions is low, it cannot be dismissed.

Lord Neill, the chairman of the committee, said that Government Departments and regulators were giving out varying advice to individuals about their personal liability for the actions of the body they served. Another problem he highlighted was differing views on how best to protect such people.

Personal Liability in Public Service Organisations: A Legal Research Study for the Committee on Standards in Public Life, can be ordered from The Stationery Office.