Headlines: January 13th, 2003

The first steps are being taken in the next phase of research into people’s attitudes to standards of conduct among those who hold public offices. The Committee on Standards in Public Life has begun the tendering process for stage two of a long-term study to establish a benchmark of opinion about how office holders should behave.This phase of the process will focus on the expectations of the general public, rather than the attitudes of those in public office themselves.

The Committee’s Chairman Sir Nigel Wicks said, “The fact that the Seven Principles of Public Life, which this committee established in 1995, have been so widely adopted shows that they are broadly correct and helpful to public office holders. But it is more difficult to know whether they reflect what the public sees as the key issues.”

Because of that, he said, the Committee had decided to widen its understanding of people’s views. “We want to know if there is broad agreement about what each of the Principles actually means, and whether they reflect the priorities of the public,” Sir Nigel said.

“ We also want to know how the public decides where to draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour,” he added.

The Seven Principles of Public Life set out by the committee are, Selflessness; Integrity; Objectivity; Accountability; Openness; Honesty; and Leadership. The new research will involve the development and testing of detailed questions which will then be used in a representative survey. The findings should be ready for publication by the end of this year.