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A new Parliament is the right time to reinforce standards

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In this intense period following yesterday’s election results, it must be kept in mind that some members of Parliament will take up this role for the very first time. Many will have received induction training or corporate induction on values or company ethics in their previous roles and careers. Some will have already come across the Nolan Principles in a public sector presentation or a training course. These seven words – first set out by Lord Nolan in 1995 – are what the public expect of those holding public office.

These Principles apply right across public life, and wherever taxpayers’ money is spent on public services, and it especially important for elected representatives to understand them as they take up their seats in Parliament.

Many will have had high profile and challenging roles before, but most will not have experienced the level of scrutiny they will face as an MP. For some it can feel daunting.

Public perceptions of standards of public life have been in long-term decline for over a decade. Although polling shows a slight upturn since the dark days in public opinion ratings following the expenses scandal, any misdemeanour continues to do disproportionate damage to the Houses of Parliament as a whole.

The code of conduct for MPs and it's required associated actions may appear bureaucratic, but they are essential reading. It is not good enough to say that you were not fully aware of the rules. Registering an interest, a significant meeting or additional earnings in a timely manner is part and parcel of normal governance arrangements in all well-run organisations.

I strongly encourage all new MPs to take part in the voluntary ethics induction being organised by Parliament. 93% of the 177 new MPs attended in 2015.

For all MPs, it is good to remind yourselves of the principles, refresh your understanding of the rules and ensure you and your staff are aware of your role and responsibilities as an ethical leader. A new Parliament is a perfect opportunity to look at the Nolan principles and start as you mean to go on.

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