GPG presents evidence on improving standards in the House of Commons.

The Standards Committee of the House of Commons recently issued its sixth report, the Standards System in the House of Commons, seeking to increase understanding around what MPs do, the rules governing their conduct, and the way in which those rules are enforced. GPG Director, Greg Power gave oral evidence to the committee in July last year.

The report finds that once elected, the general public have little understanding of what MPs are expected to do. To address this the report sets out the various aspects of the work of MPs and the limitations around their role. It also suggests a number of reforms to the standards system including the Committee on Standards taking a leading role in actively promoting good practice and coordinating with other bodies responsible for setting rules. The Committee also find that “self-regulation, with external input, is the appropriate system”.

In our evidence, in line with the ‘politically agile programming’ approach we adopt in our international support programmes, we suggest that creating a strong political culture that is built on integrity and trust is critical to a successful system of self-regulation. Culture is the best lock on behaviour within an institution. As Mr. Power highlighted, the most effective codes of conduct are the ones that are never used.

Even in systems with a strong political culture, changing behaviour and overcoming resistance to change depends on understanding the underlying incentive structures and showing MPs how changes can work to help them and allow them to be more effective in their jobs. For more information on our politically agile approach see here.