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Special Interests

The coat of arms used by Her Majesty’s Government includes the text ‘Honi soit qui mal y pense’, which translates as ‘shamed be the person who thinks evil of it.’

The parliamentary code of conduct is a substantial but readable publication. It requires Members to declare their ‘special interests’, both in a public register and on engaging in debates or other official proceedings. Such interests include directorships, shareholdings, services to clients (‘parliamentary advice’), overseas visits, land or property, employment, sponsorships, as well as gifts and hospitality. Some commercial relationships are exempt from the register, but the code of conduct is specific that a Member must declare an interest if it may be thought an influence.

Sadly, there are occasions – even today in the venerable and revered chamber of the House – in which members ‘inadvertently’ forget to declare substantial payments; or are the chair of a sensitive select committee, when they have a six-figure income from vested interests; or a large number of those voting on tax reform are revealed to be either directors, or with controlling interests in companies based in offshore tax havens. If the UK is to maintain a reputation as a respected democracy, it must evidently be free of corruption. We therefore need a direct and clear process for correcting the errors of Members of Parliament. When a breach is substantiated by good evidence, they should be removed from office while the matter is promptly investigated and a judgement made.

As Juvenal said, ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?’ or ‘Who will watch the watchmen themselves?’

Image: Royal Coat of Arms, Her Majesty's Government, by Sodacan

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