Parliamentary candidates asked to publish their financial interests and tax status

Sometimes good intentions don’t quite result in the good outcomes you’d wish. In this case, the issue is a recommendation from the Committee on Standards in Public Life that general election candidates should have to publish their financial interests just as MPs do.

The logic is a good one: if you’re a voter wanting to chose between candidates, it’s a bit odd if you only know about the financial interests of an MP standing for re-election but not of the people they’re up against. You want to know the interests before you cast your vote, not find out afterwards whether or not you should regret your choice.

However, as the committee recognised, its proposals came out too late to change the law for the 2010 general election. Therefore instead the Ministry of Justice has just published a voluntary scheme, detailing a recommended set of questions that candidates should answer about their financial interests.

Perhaps the most controversial will be the section on tax, where people are asked if:

I confirm that, for the tax year 2008/09, I have not claimed to be, or been treated as not resident, not ordinarily resident or non-domiciled in the UK for tax purposes.

Non-doms are a controversial issues anyway; the appearance of this recommendation just before an election is unlikely to cool such partisan passions. When neither Parliament nor the Committee on Standards in Public Life have decided on such a rule (so far – and I hope they do in due course), should the Ministry of Justice unilaterally be slipping it in to a report so soon before an election?

Overall, the recommendations themselves acknowledge that they go beyond what is currently required of MPs. To require candidates to publish the same information as is required of MPs makes obvious sense; for a government ministry to go beyond that off its own bat could turn out to be quite controversial.

With a voluntary code, published rather late in the day and plenty of scope for individual candidates to partially answer the questions, we’re unlikely to see a triumph of transparency that results in voters being significantly better informed. However, it will at the very least provide a test of the different provisions which should make for better legislation when the whole process most likely becomes law during the next Parliament.

You can read the full guidance below:

Declarations of Interests by Parliamentary Election Candidates

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This entry was posted in Election law.
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  • […] also rather stumbled both by making some errors in the document and by its means of sending it out. As one recipient pointed out: Amusingly, in sending the code by email to PPCs (and to me as an agent), the Ministry of Justice […]

  • […] rather stumbled both by making some errors in the document and by its means of sending it out. As one recipient pointed out: Amusingly, in sending the code by email to PPCs (and to me as an agent), the Ministry of Justice […]

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