Publication - Advice and guidance

Model code of conduct for members of devolved public bodies

Published: 3 Feb 2014
Directorate:
Local Government and Communities Directorate
Part of:
Public sector
ISBN:
9781784121808

Model Code of Conduct for Members of Devolved Public Bodies revised edition February 2014

Model code of conduct for members of devolved public bodies
Section 5: Declaration of Interests

Section 5: Declaration of Interests

General

5.1 The key principles of the Model Code, especially those in relation to integrity, honesty and openness, are given further practical effect by the requirement for you to declare certain interests in proceedings of the public body. Together with the rules on registration of interests, this ensures transparency of your interests which might influence, or be thought to influence, your actions.

5.2 Public bodies inevitably have dealings with a wide variety of organisations and individuals and this Model Code indicates the circumstances in which a business or personal interest must be declared. Public confidence in the public body and its members depends on it being clearly understood that decisions are taken in the public interest and not for any other reason.

5.3 In considering whether to make a declaration in any proceedings, you must consider not only whether you will be influenced but whether anybody else would think that you might be influenced by the interest. You must, however, always comply with the objective test ("the objective test") which is whether a member of the public, with knowledge of the relevant facts, would reasonably regard the interest as so significant that it is likely to prejudice your discussion or decision making in your role as a member of a public body.

5.4 If you feel that, in the context of the matter being considered, your involvement is neither capable of being viewed as more significant than that of an ordinary member of the public, nor likely to be perceived by the public as wrong, you may continue to attend the meeting and participate in both discussion and voting. The relevant interest must however be declared. It is your responsibility to judge whether an interest is sufficiently relevant to particular proceedings to require a declaration and you are advised to err on the side of caution. If a board member is unsure as to whether a conflict of interest exits, they should seek advice from the board chair.

5.5 As a member of a public body you might serve on other bodies. In relation to service on the boards and management committees of limited liability companies, public bodies, societies and other organisations, you must decide, in the particular circumstances surrounding any matter, whether to declare an interest. Only if you believe that, in the particular circumstances, the nature of the interest is so remote or without significance, should it not be declared. You must always remember the public interest points towards transparency and, in particular, a possible divergence of interest between your public body and another body. Keep particularly in mind the advice in paragraph 3.15 of this Model Code about your legal responsibilities to any limited company of which you are a director.

Interests which Require Declaration

5.6 Interests which require to be declared, if known to you may be financial or non-financial. They may or may not cover interests which are registerable under the terms of this Model Code. Most of the interests to be declared will be your personal interests but, on occasion, you will have to consider whether the interests of other persons require you to make a declaration. The paragraphs which follow deal with (a) your financial interests (b) your non-financial interests and (c) the interests, financial and non-financial, of other persons.

5.7 You will also have other private and personal interests and may serve, or be associated with, bodies, societies and organisations as a result of your private and personal interests and not because of your role as a member of a public body. In the context of any particular matter you will need to decide whether to declare an interest. You should declare an interest unless you believe that, in the particular circumstances, the interest is too remote or without significance. In reaching a view on whether the objective test applies to the interest, you should consider whether your interest (whether taking the form of association or the holding of office) would be seen by a member of the public acting reasonably in a different light because it is the interest of a person who is a member of a public body as opposed to the interest of an ordinary member of the public.

Your Financial Interests

5.8 You must declare, if it is known to you, any financial interest (including any financial interest which is registerable under any of the categories prescribed in Section 4 of this Model Code).

There is no need to declare an interest which is so remote or insignificant that it could not reasonably be taken to fall within the objective test.

You must withdraw from the meeting room until discussion of the relevant item where you have a declarable interest is concluded. There is no need to withdraw in the case of an interest which is so remote or insignificant that it could not reasonably be taken to fall within the objective test.

Your Non-Financial Interests

5.9 You must declare, if it is known to you, any non-financial interest if:

(i) that interest has been registered under category seven (Non Financial Interests) of Section 4 of the Model Code; or

(ii) that interest would fall within the terms of the objective test.

There is no need to declare an interest which is so remote or insignificant that it could not reasonably be taken to fall within the objective test.

You must withdraw from the meeting room until discussion of the relevant item where you have a declarable interest is concluded. There is no need to withdraw in the case of an interest which is so remote or insignificant that it could not reasonably be taken to fall within the objective test.

The Financial Interests of Other Persons

5.10 The Model Code requires only your financial interests to be registered. You also, however, have to consider whether you should declare any financial interest of certain other persons.

You must declare if it is known to you any financial interest of:-

(i) a spouse, a civil partner or a co-habitee;

(ii) a close relative, close friend or close associate;

(iii) an employer or a partner in a firm;

(iv) a body (or subsidiary or parent of a body) of which you are a remunerated member or director;

(v) a person from whom you have received a registerable gift or registerable hospitality;

(vi) a person from whom you have received registerable expenses.

There is no need to declare an interest if it is so remote or insignificant that it could not reasonably be taken to fall within the objective test.

You must withdraw from the meeting room until discussion of and voting on the relevant item where you have a declarable interest is concluded. There is no need to withdraw in the case of an interest which is so remote or insignificant that it could not reasonably be taken to fall within the objective test.

5.11 This Model Code does not attempt the task of defining "relative" or "friend" or "associate". Not only is such a task fraught with difficulty but is also unlikely that such definitions would reflect the intention of this part of the Model Code. The key principle is the need for transparency in regard to any interest which might (regardless of the precise description of relationship) be objectively regarded by a member of the public, acting reasonably, as potentially affecting your responsibilities as a member of a public body and, as such, would be covered by the objective test.

The Non-Financial Interests of Other Persons

5.12 You must declare if it is known to you any non-financial interest of:-

(i) a spouse, a civil partner or a co-habitee;

(ii) a close relative, close friend or close associate;

(iii) an employer or a partner in a firm;

(iv) a body (or subsidiary or parent of a body) of which you are a remunerated member or director;

(v) a person from whom you have received a registerable gift or registerable hospitality;

(vi) a person from whom you have received registerable election expenses.

There is no need to declare the interest if it is so remote or insignificant that it could not reasonably be taken to fall within the objective test.

There is only a need to withdraw from the meeting if the interest is clear and substantial.

Making a Declaration

5.13 You must consider at the earliest stage possible whether you have an interest to declare in relation to any matter which is to be considered. You should consider whether agendas for meetings raise any issue of declaration of interest. Your declaration of interest must be made as soon as practicable at a meeting where that interest arises. If you do identify the need for a declaration of interest only when a particular matter is being discussed you must declare the interest as soon as you realise it is necessary.

5.14 The oral statement of declaration of interest should identify the item or items of business to which it relates. The statement should begin with the words "I declare an interest". The statement must be sufficiently informative to enable those at the meeting to understand the nature of your interest but need not give a detailed description of the interest.

Frequent Declarations of Interest

5.15 Public confidence in a public body is damaged by perception that decisions taken by that body are substantially influenced by factors other than the public interest. If you would have to declare interests frequently at meetings in respect of your role as a board member you should not accept a role or appointment with that attendant consequence. If members are frequently declaring interests at meetings then they should consider whether they can carry out their role effectively and discuss with their chair. Similarly, if any appointment or nomination to another body would give rise to objective concern because of your existing personal involvement or affiliations, you should not accept the appointment or nomination.

Dispensations

5.16 In some very limited circumstances dispensations can be granted by the Standards Commission in relation to the existence of financial and non-financial interests which would otherwise prohibit you from taking part and voting on matters coming before your public body and its committees.

5.17 Applications for dispensations will be considered by the Standards Commission and should be made as soon as possible in order to allow proper consideration of the application in advance of meetings where dispensation is sought. You should not take part in the consideration of the matter in question until the application has been granted.


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