The Constitution Unit


NEW REPORT: Trust in Public Life

19 March 2024

The Constitution Unit’s Robert Hazell and Peter Riddell have published a new report on restoring the role of seven constitutional watchdogs regulating the executive.

The top of the front cover of 'Trust in Public Life: Restoring the Role of Constitutional Watchdogs'.

Key points:

  • There is an urgent need to rebuild the system for upholding standards in public life.
  • This report sets out a range of strengthening measures, in detail, for implementation early in the next parliament.
  • Action can be taken quickly to signal a fresh start by the use of prerogative powers.
  • Legislation can follow to put the watchdogs on a statutory footing.
  • That allows time to consult about their precise powers and functions, and about the structure and remit of a possible Ethics and Integrity Commission.

Read the report (pdf)

Read a summary

Constitutional watchdogs are the guardians of the system for upholding standards. This report concerns seven constitutional watchdogs which monitor the conduct of the executive: the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, the Civil Service Commission, the Commissioner for Public Appointments, the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL), the House of Lords Appointments Commission, the Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests and the Registrar for Consultant Lobbyists.

A series of official and non-governmental reports have all agreed that these watchdogs need strengthening; but there is less agreement on how, or by how much, they should be strengthened. This is the gap which this report intends to fill.

Trust in Public Life: Restoring the Role of Constitutional Watchdogs is by the Constitution Unit’s founder and former Director Professor Robert Hazell, and the former Commissioner for Public Appointments Sir Peter Riddell, now an Honorary Professor at UCL.

Peter Riddell said:

The general election provides the opportunity for a much needed fresh start to reinvigorate the constitutional watchdogs as an essential first step to restoring trust in public life. Our report makes a series of recommendations which can be introduced quickly without requiring legislation.

Robert Hazell added:

That allows time to consult about the precise powers and functions of the watchdogs before legislating, including the structure and remit of a possible Ethics and Integrity Commission. CSPL could form the core of a new Ethics and Integrity Commission if it is strengthened, given a wider remit and put on a statutory basis.

Key links: