Martin Harris

Martin Harris

Minister and Deputy Head of Mission to Russia

Part of UK in Romania

27th September 2012

Parliamentary Rules

Members of Parliaments across Europe are finding themselves subject to more and more scrutiny these days from public institutions, the press and from their own electorates.

Romania has the National Integrity Agency (ANI) which is setting new standards in public life. This month an MP’s mandate was revoked on the grounds of incompatibility, implementing ANI’s findings. In the UK, Westminster has introduced successive reforms to respond to scandals over ‘cash for questions’ in the 1990s or MPs expenses in 2009. Several MPs have been expelled or suspended from the Commons and the Lords.

There is now a Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards charged with upholding the Code of Conduct of Members of the House of Commons.

We debated these issues last week when a parliamentary delegation from the UK visited Bucharest. The Romanian parliament is committed to a number of reforms under Romania’s National Anti-Corruption Strategy – reforming procedures on lifting the immunity of Parliamentarians, adopting an ethical code for MPs, and working with the Council of Europe’s special anti-corruption body GRECO.

It’s important that this parliament, and its successor, make progress in implementing this strategy. Any campaign against corruption needs the clear support of the country’s political leadership. Parliamentarians have to show not only that they are subject to the same laws as anyone else, but that they go further, and hold to the highest standards of integrity as leaders of their country. Otherwise the reputation of Parliament suffers and the quality of democracy does too.

One of the most powerful tools of accountability in the UK in recent years has been a website which allows you track exactly what your MP has been saying, how he or she has been voting, how often they take part in debates. One Parliamentarian, Lord Gould, described it as “probably the biggest single catalyst for political change in this country”.

Why? The clue is in the title – theyworkforyou.com.

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About Martin Harris

I am the Minister and Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Moscow. In my last job I was the Ambassador at the British Embassy in Bucharest. Previously I…

I am the Minister and Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy
in Moscow. In my last job I was the Ambassador at the British Embassy in
Bucharest. Previously I have served at the British Embassies in Kyiv
and Moscow as well as at the UK Delegation to the OSCE in Vienna.
I love music, especially opera, chamber and sacred music. I am
married to Linda MacLachlan. We have three daughters, Catriona, Tabitha
and Flora – and they have one dog Timur and two cats, Pushkin and Tolstoi.