Douglas Bain, the Northern Ireland Assembly Commissioner for Standards, today published his annual report on his work during the year ending 31 March 2017.

In his report the Commissioner notes that the number of complaints about the conduct of MLAs has fallen to the lowest level since 2012, when the Office of Commissioner was established.

The report makes clear that this reduction has occurred despite actions which have made it easier to submit a complaint.

Mr Bain stated: “I believe that the reduction in complaints is due, in large part, to a continuing lack of public confidence in the complaints process and in the Assembly itself. Last year I made a number of confidence building recommendations. It is most disappointing that little or no action has been taken to implement any of them. Against that background it is wholly unsurprising that the number of complaints about the conduct of MLAs has fallen from 53 in 2014-15 to a current low of nine in 2016-17.

“I believe that the only way this situation will be reversed is if my recommendations are implemented and I call for urgent action to be taken.”

ENDS

Notes for Editors

1. Douglas Bain is the first Northern Ireland Assembly Commissioner for Standards and ends his five year term of office in September 2017. This is his fifth and final annual report. He is not eligible for re-appointment. The vacancy has already been advertised.

2. The Commissioner’s main function is to investigate complaints that MLAs have broken the provisions of the Code of Conduct and to report his findings to the Committee on Standards and Privileges.

3. The Committee decides whether the MLA has breached the Code and on the sanction, if any, to recommend to the Assembly.

4. In his report for 2015-16 the Commissioner drew attention to the significant reduction in the number of complaints made about the conduct of MLAs which he attributed in large part to the reduction of public confidence in the complaints process and in the Assembly itself. He recommended:

  • publication of brief details of all admissible complaints he receives
  • an end to the current party political approach to conduct issues
  • prohibiting the use of a Petition of Concern in relation to complaints
  • the appointment of lay independent members to the Committee on Standards and Privileges.

5. In this year’s report the Commissioner records a continuing reduction in the number of complaints received and the lack of any significant action to implement any the confidence building measures he recommended in his 2015-16 report. In 2016-17 the Commissioner received only 9 complaints compared with 53 in 2014-15 and 14 in 2015-16.

6. A copy of the Commissioner’s report for 2016-17 is attached. It can also be found, along with his 2015-16 report on his website.

7. For media enquiries, please contact:

The Communications Office
Northern Ireland Assembly
Tel: 028 9052 1405
Email: info@niassembly.gov.uk

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