Council of Europe praises UK for successfully combatting corruption
MOSCOW, March 6 - RAPSI. The Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) heaped praise on the UK for its success in combatting corruption within the judiciary, the parliament, and among prosecutors in its fourth evaluation report, released Wednesday.
During the reporting period, GRECO focused on efforts to fight corruption amongst judges, prosecutors, and Members of Parliament (MPs).
The judiciary came across as the golden child in the UK’s fight to end corruption. The report states: “The judiciary is ranked as the most trusted institution by the public in the United Kingdom, with an untarnished reputation of independence, impartiality and integrity of its members. Nothing that emerged from the current evaluation indicated that there was any element of corruption in relation to judges nor was there any evidence of their decisions being influenced in an inappropriate manner.”
GRECO did recommend that the UK should increase the ratio of salaried judges to those that earn fees, in the interest of insuring security of tenure, and suggested an enhancement of training mechanisms currently in place promote ethics and prevent corruption and conflicts of interest.
The country was praised for its efforts to improve efficiency and safeguard the tenets of justice among prosecutors as well, although GRECO noted that more could be done to improve ethics training within the profession.
GRECO’s view of the parliament’s success in combatting corruption was mixed. It praised the Codes of Conduct and their highly detailed supplements for regulating the non-criminal but still less than savory behavior of MPs in both houses, but noted that public faith in the parliament remains low, noting that “Once lost, confidence takes substantial time and effort to regain; fortunately, the UK Parliament has the basic structures in place to do so.”
With regard to the Codes of Conduct, the report recommended, however, that the codes could be improved with a stipulation that MPs will be held responsible for the actions of their staff member when they are carrying out official duties on behalf of the MP.
Furthermore, GRECO urges parliament to review its Codes of Conduct for clarity with regard to ethical issues raised by relations between MPs and lobbyists.
The report adds that the current thresholds for recording financial holdings are high, portraying a priority emphasis on earned income and fees rather than investments. Thus, GRECO recommends that the Parliament lower the reporting thresholds for MPs in terms of reporting financial holdings, such as stocks and shares.
GRECO further recommends that the threshold for gift reporting requirements should be lowered, noting that the threshold for both houses of parliament is set at 1% of salary levels. Thus MPs don’t have to report gifts worth less than £660 or £500 for the House of Lords and House of Commons respectively. For comparison, ministers are required to report gifts amounting to £140 or more. Likewise, the report recommends clearer guidance on the receipt of gifts by MPs.
Finally, the UK is urged to review for appropriateness the disciplinary actions currently in place for MPs.
GRECO was established by the Council of Europe in 1999 with the objective of fighting corruption across the member states.