Ethical standards in public life - model code of conduct for board members: consultation analysis

An analysis of responses to the consultation on current proposals for a revised Model Code of Conduct for members of devolved public bodies.

Section 6: Lobbying and access

Question 9: Public bodies aim to be open and accessible to the views and opinions of others, and to make their decisions based on the widest possible evidence and arguments. As a Member you will probably be approached by those wishing to make their views known. This is perfectly legitimate but care is needed. We have looked to simplify the Model Code in Section 6 covering Lobbying and Access. Do you think the proposed changes achieve this aim?

Thirty respondents (67%) provided feedback on Section 6 of the revised Model Code, with the remaining 15 respondents (33%) not providing any feedback. Many respondents said that they found this section to be clear, well-explained and simple to follow. Some also felt that the revised Section 6 was both helpful and practical. For example, respondents liked the inclusion of information on how lobbying might occur, the different types of lobbying that may take place, the application of the objective test, and who to approach for further guidance relating to lobbying and access. Comments from respondents included:

“I think Section 6 is better explained and set out in the revised Model Code (albeit preferably without 'I'!). The explanation, in particular, of how lobbying might occur is helpful. A good new section is proposed.”

“This reads much clearer in our view – it is helpful that the new text includes a definition of lobbying and also that it refers to the application of the objective test when considering lobbying which the current Code does not do.”

“While these are not issues smaller organisations are likely to encounter regularly the new wording is very clear.”

As with other sections of the revised Model Code, several respondents felt that there were a few amendments that could be made to the Model Code, but again views in this area were diverse. For example, a couple of respondents emphasised the role of the board Chair in this regard; we heard that if a board member is approached by a lobbyist, in order to safeguard the decision-making process then this should be drawn to the attention of – or even recorded and processed by – the Chair or, alternatively, by the Chief Executive or Standards Officer. Other points of feedback included that:

  • the Lobbying (Scotland) Act 2016 does not apply to Integration Joint Boards and so the provision in Paragraph 6.6[7] should either be removed altogether, or it should be made clearer that Integration Joint Boards are free to disregard this provision;
  • the use of the word ‘reasonable’ (presumably in Paragraph 6.2) is problematic in that sometimes, there is a difference between the perception of an issue and the reality of it;
  • a clearer distinction needs to be drawn between lobbying on one hand, and information gathering and normal engagement for legitimate purposes on the other hand;
  • whether the instruction to seek further guidance, if needed, from the Chair, Chief Executive or Standards Officer places limits on the amount of guidance available to the board member.



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