By Peter McLaren-Kennedy •
Updated: 05 Nov 2022 • 9:42
House of Commons
image: parliament tv
Speaking to the Guardian on Saturday, November 5, the new Parliamentary Standards Commissioner David Greenberg admitted that recent events had left the reputation of ministers and MPs in tatters.
But he said, he wanted to be an advocate for what he believes are the vast majority of MPs, who are committed to high standards in public life.
He said: “It’s a low point within recent decades. It’s definitely a low point in the reputation of politics and politicians … I think politicians as a class definitely have made some mistakes.
“The reputation isn’t always deserved … We’ve had some very significant, high-profile and very serious cases of breach of standards in the past five or so years. But in terms of numbers, we’ve got 650 MPs and the vast majority have strong commitment to high standards in public life.”
He added that his years of experience in parliament put him a in a good position to support the exemplary and those who do maintain high standards, and to deal with those who don’t.
Pledging to conduct the role “without fear or favour”, Greenberg the seventh person to be appointed to the role since it was created in 1995, said he would investigate anyone guilty of transgressions including the prime minister.
“I have a deep emotional attachment to the place and what it represents. That’s why I wanted to do [the job], because it upsets me that parliament gets a less impressive reputation than it often deserves. When you see the low level of trust between the public and parliament, politicians at all levels, you want to get involved.”
A Cambridge educated lawyer, the 57-year-old has spent 35 years working in parliament. His most recent role was counsel for domestic legislation in the Commons with past roles having included drafting and scrutinising legislation.
He replaces Kathryn Stone who provoked the ire of Conservative MPs after she published a highly critical report into the former cabinet minister Owen Paterson over lobbying.
Issuing a warning to MPs after the chair of the cross-party standards committee, revealed some were lobbying on behalf of colleagues, Greenberg said he would “take that very seriously” if it happened as it could “undermine” the independence of the system.
He also called on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to replace Christopher Geidt, who resigned as ethics adviser over Boris Johnson’s behaviour. The role has been empty ever since.
That role he said was important in determining whether MPs should have outside interests and what might be acceptable. He said it is important that a balance is struck between what is in conflict with parliament and what is good for parliament.
With the reputation of UK politicians at all time low and calls for a general election, the standards commissioner will have his work cut out for him in the days and weeks ahead.
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Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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