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Politicians to be asked to declare gift offers over £40

Politicians to be asked to declare gift offers over £40

Wednesday 05 January 2022

Politicians to be asked to declare gift offers over £40

Wednesday 05 January 2022


Politicians will have to declare any gifts they are offered worth over £40 – even if they refuse them – under new rules being proposed as part of an anti-corruption drive.

It’s one of several tweaks that could be made to the States Members Code of Conduct, if a majority of politicians vote in favour next month.

As previously revealed by Express, the new proposals put forward by the Privileges and Procedures Committee (PPC) - which oversees the running of the States Assembly - would see States Members have to declare the interests of more than just their "spouse, civil partner or cohabitee", and require them to declare the interests of any other relative or household member they have a "close relationship" with.

They also include a new formal renewal process for registering interests with the Greffier too, requiring members to confirm their registrations of interest have not changed and send an updated version in June of every year.

If there is a potential irregularity that remains unresolved after 30 days or a States Member does not comply with the requirement, the Greffier must report it to the Commissioner for Standards.

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Pictured: Chair of the Privileges and Procedures Committee, Carina Alves, said the current Code of Conduct arrangements were "in urgent need of reform."

The updates are being proposed following recommendations from public spending watchdog, Comptroller and Auditor General Lynn Pamment.

The proposition's accompanying report notes that another area "particularly in need of attention" was the the Code of Conduct's section on gifts and hospitality, which should be updated to include an "explicit link between gifts and hospitality and corruption and the perception of corruption."

This is for gifts given, received or offered connected to their standing as a States Member rather than in their private lives.

The threshold for what is classified as a gift has been changed from 10% of salary - States Members are currently paid just under £47,000 per year - to £40 (or £100 if more than one gift under £40 is given or offered within a 12-month period), which brings the rule for States Members in line with Ministers and Assistant Ministers. Even refused gifts would have to be recorded.

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Pictured: A new, 'neutral' form of suspension for States members has been put forward as part of the proposal, which would allow them to be suspended, but not as a sanction - this could apply, for example, in cases of ongoing trials.

In terms of property, though the rules are to be changed so that only Jersey land has to be declared, any income from land outside of Jersey which is more than £10,000 must be declared.

As well as these changes around 'interests', a new "neutral" form of suspension for members is put forward too, where a member can be suspended, but not as a sanction.

"This could apply where, for example, a Member faces a criminal trial: the Member is innocent until proven guilty, but their continued participation in the Assembly during the period preceding and during the trial might be problematic," the report explains.

Summarising the changes, the report outlines that the principles States Members should follow have also been updated to include clarified definitions of 'selflessness', 'integrity', 'objectivity', 'accountability', 'openness', 'honesty', and 'leadership'.

Discussing the proposed new Code, PPC Chair Deputy Carina Alves, said: "The Code of Conduct and our rules and processes for registering and declaring States Members' interests and dealing with breaches of the rules are a crucial part of our democracy, this helps to build and maintain confidence in the integrity of our political system.

"Our current arrangements are in urgent need of reform. The proposed changes implement the Comptroller and Auditor General's recommendations and make a number of other changes which will make our political system much more robust."

The updated Code of Conduct is due to be debated on 8 February.

The new proposals aren't the only time members' interests have been addressed in recent months.

During a Government Plan debate over the cap for paying Social Security in December, members who earned over £250,000 were asked to declare an interest and withdraw from the debate by the Bailiff.

"... the ruling applies if you earn over £250,000, roughly speaking, or in the unlikely event that you are an employer, directly an employer of someone who earns more than that money, or your spouse, civil partner or cohabitee falls into that category," the Bailiff explained.

Home Affairs Minister Gregory Guida and Senator Kristina Moore both declared an interest from the debate.

The Bailiff added however that these rules could also do with an overhaul, saying: "This matter is not entirely straightforward, and in my judgment, as my predecessors have said in the past, this Standing Order would benefit from careful consideration and refinement and I would hope that P.P.C. (Privileges and Procedures Committee) could give this consideration."

The updates to the Code of Conduct are currently scheduled for debate on 8 February.

READ MORE...

FOCUS: States Members and their business interests

Politicians pushed to declare family members' interests

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