Ethical World of British MPs

Ethical World of British MPs

Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Ethical World of British MPs
    Book Description:

    Based on extensive personal interviews with more than one hundred MPs, Mancuso's is the first investigation of British legislative ethics to take a systematic approach. She identifies significant divergence in ethical attitudes and divides MPs into four types: the Puritans, who stake out the moral high ground; the Servants, who conform to the traditional ideal of the MP as public-spirited constituency advocate; the Muddlers, who are not bothered by personal conflicts of interest; and the Entrepreneurs, who use their position to achieve any end not explicitly prohibited. The implications of this unexpectedly diverse ethical ecosystem are explored along with various possibilities for reform.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6515-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-7)

    The ethical standards of the British House of Commons, as an institution, depend almost entirely on the personal ethical determination of its individual members. The same cannot be said of many other legislatures: the United States Congress, for example, has constructed a substantial regulatory edifice - composed of statutory restrictions, codes, and bureaucratic watchdogs - to govern, direct, and shape the behaviour of its legislators, as well as to enforce its own ethical self-image. While this more formal system does not guarantee a more elevated political morality, it does provide its membership with a host of tangible rules, prohibitions, and...

  5. CHAPTER ONE British Legislative Ethics
    (pp. 8-29)

    Members of parliament routinely confront potential ethical conflicts as they conduct the business of elected office. As candidates they are required to help raise party funds. As employers they hire staff and administer the operations of at least one and perhaps two offices. As public officials, they take responsibility for the perquisites associated with their position, such as franking mail and claiming travel allowances. As voting legislators they must reconcile their personal inclinations with the dictates of their party. As parliamentarians they are approached to accept the hospitality of foreign governments and of business and other organized interests. Few guidelines,...

  6. CHAPTER TWO A Typology of MPs
    (pp. 30-53)

    The crucial variable in Parliament’s ethical equation remains unknown: How do MPS make their ethical choices, and do they all make them in the same way? To settle these questions the MPS themselves must be consulted. One way of determining the attitudes that inform these choices is to present MPS with a series of situations that require them to make an ethical decision. By thus quantifying the ethical standards operative in the House, it becomes possible to determine the degree of ethical consensus or dissensus among MPS. This chapter explains the process used to measure and categorize the attitudes and...

  7. CHAPTER THREE The Puritans
    (pp. 54-88)

    The Puritan category consists of the twenty-eight respondents who displayed low tolerance for both constituency service and conflict of interest. These MPS drew the boundaries of ethically acceptable behaviour more narrowly than other members. They zealously and rigidly safeguarded their legislative autonomy, and were determined to allow neither their private interests nor their roles as representatives to exert undue influence on their functioning as legislators. Unlike many of their colleagues, the Puritans were well aware of their distinctiveness in this regard. Most Puritans expressed confidence in their standards and a firm belief that these standards were above reproach. Several described...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR The Servants
    (pp. 89-116)

    The Servants were those sixteen MPS who displayed high tolerance for acts of constituency service but low tolerance for conflict of interest. The Servants shared many Puritan concerns about the influence of external forces on the representative process, but unlike the Puritans they were willing to accept that MPS might exploit their position and the opportunities available to them as long as it was in the interests of their constituents. The Servants indicated that they felt a particularly strong bond to the people who elected them, and emphasized the process of representation and the dilemmas caused by conflicting obligations: “It...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE The Muddlers
    (pp. 117-143)

    The Muddlers were those MPS, twenty-one in number, who scored low tolerance for constituency service and high tolerance for conflict of interest. Like the Servants, the Muddlers displayed a mix of high and low tolerances. The Servants drew the line between corrupt and not corrupt in an essentially altruistic manner - they were willing to accept behaviour benefiting others that they would not accept were it purely self-serving. The Muddlers, in contrast, condemned ethically questionable acts that would benefit only constituents, yet condoned acts that would confer direct personal advantage on an MP himself.

    The Muddlers were for the most...

  10. CHAPTER SIX The Entrepreneurs
    (pp. 144-169)

    The thirty-five Entrepreneurs formed the largest category in the sample. Respondents of this type displayed high tolerance for both constituency service and conflict-of-interest scenarios. In their eyes, almost anything goes, and they were in most instances willing to give MPS the benefit of the doubt. Some were even able to rationalize and justify the activity in the scenarios that the sample found overwhelmingly to be corrupt, such as DRIVEWAY; one asked rhetorically, “Is it ever done any other way?” Another added that the activity described was acceptable since the chairman was probably paying “less than retail” for the paving. Perhaps...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN The Dynamics of Reform
    (pp. 170-204)

    The views of the Puritans, Servants, Muddlers, and Entrepreneurs have been discussed with respect to political corruption, legislative ethics, and the establishment of rules to prescribe the parametres of public and private morality. The issue that remains to be discussed is that of reform. Based on the MPS’ perceptions and attitudes, how viable are ethical reform efforts in the British House of Commons? From which groups will the initiatives for reform come and what kind of reform proposals are the MPS willing to support?

    Not all legislatures manage ethical improprieties in the same manner. In the last twenty-five years, legislatures...

  12. Conclusion: The view from Westminster
    (pp. 205-208)

    The legislative ethics of the British House of Commons is a fragile and subtle construct. Parliament presumes that all MPS can be counted on to apply uniform principles of honour and good judgment to the situations they face, and thus it grants considerable discretion to individuals in the resolution of ethical dilemmas. The result is that the House is dependent for the maintenance of probity on the congruence of multiple individual attitudes with a single indistinct ideal. The basic premise is that those elected are by nature “honourable gentlemen,” and that collegial experiences within the halls of Westminster ensure that...

  13. APPENDIX: Interview Schedule: MPS and Their Attitudes towards Political corruption
    (pp. 209-214)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 215-224)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 225-232)
  16. Index
    (pp. 233-238)