Committee to appoint Sir Ernest Ryder to review Commons standards system
9 December 2021
The Committee on Standards announces its intention to appoint the Rt Hon Sir Ernest Ryder, former Lord Justice of Appeal and Senior President of Tribunals, to conduct a review of fairness and natural justice within the House of Commons standards system.
Sir Ernest will review whether the House’s current system of investigating and deciding upon breaches of the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament is compatible with fairness and natural justice, and with Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (relating to the ‘right to a fair trial’).
The review will include whether greater clarity can be achieved about the roles of the Commissioner and the Committee, and setting out potential options for formalising appeal or introducing additional elements of appeal into the system.
In a letter to Sir Ernest setting out the terms of reference ahead of the appointment, the Committee noted it “believes that MPs are presently guaranteed a fair hearing, but we are actively considering possible improvements to the processes we use in Code of Conduct cases”. The Committee also made clear the review would not include processes for investigating and adjudicating upon cases relating to bullying, harassment, and sexual misconduct, where the Independent Expert Panel decides on appeals and sanctions.
Biography of Sir Ernest Ryder: Educated at Bolton School and Peterhouse, Cambridge, Sir Ernest was called to the bar in 1981 and became a QC in 1997. He was appointed a Justice of the High Court in 2004 and was both the Presiding Judge of the Northern Circuit and its Family Division Liaison Judge. He was subsequently the judge in charge of the modernisation of family justice responsible for the creation of the Family Court. In 2013 Sir Ernest was appointed a Lord Justice of Appeal and privy counsellor, and in 2015 was appointed Senior President of Tribunals for the United Kingdom, one of the five heads of jurisdiction who preside over the judiciary in the UK. He became Master of Pembroke College in the University of Oxford in July 2020.
Chris Bryant MP, Chair of the Committee on Standards, said:
“It is essential that everyone – both inside and outside Parliament – has full confidence in the standards processes in the house of Commons. That is why we are appointing former senior judge Sir Ernest Ryder to conduct a thorough, independent review of the system.
We are committed to continually reviewing and improving our processes, and look forward to hearing Sir Ernest’s recommendations on how the system can be improved even further.”
The Committee had signalled its intention to appoint a senior judicial figure to conduct a review of the standards system in its Code of Conduct report published last week. The report set out a robust package of recommendations to tighten the rules for MPs, particularly around lobbying, transparency and conflicts of interest. The report also included a refreshed draft Code of Conduct. The proposals made by the Committee are currently out for consultation until 20 January.
The Committee will take into account the conclusions of Sir Ernest’s review as well as responses to its consultation ahead of making its final report to the House on the Code of Conduct.
You can read the full exchange of correspondence, alongside terms of reference for the new judge-led review on the Standards Committee website here.
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