LIB DEMS IN GLASGOW: Policy on standards in public life attacked

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The Independent Online
A move to bar MPs from voting in areas in which they have financial interests was backed by the conference - but only after protests from the floor that the party's policy on standards in public life lacked bite.

Delegates decided that rules similar to those applying to local councillors should be applied to MPs and other holders of public office. There should also be "clear accountability arrangements" for quangos, full disclosure by political parties of "substantial" donations, and a two-year ban on ministers taking up posts in industries where they exercised ministerial responsibility.

The motion also called for reforms of the Register of MPs' Interests to ensure the nature, extent and value to individual members of outside connections are clearly declared.

Successive speakers insisted, however, that the resolution ought to have been stronger.

Monroe Palmer, from Hastings and Rye, said: "It lacks teeth. What will be the punishment for breaking the rules? We should say boldly and clearly that financial corruption will be punished by a combination of fines, community service and dismissal from office.

John Thompson, from Devizes, said: "It's so bland, it's so warm on the outside, so hollow on the inside it almost could have been composed by Tony Blair's speech writers."

Archy Kirkwood, the party's chief whip, urged the Prime Minister to allow the Nolan committee to undertake an immediate investigation into financing of political parties and the possibility of state funding.

"Nolan cannot be used as a carpet under which the endemic corruption in our political system is swept," Mr Kirkwood said. "It must be given the chance to wipe out sleaze in politics once and for all."

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