Working for CoRWM

Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) Code of Practice

Introduction

1) The Committee (CoRWM) must build and retain public respect by the way in which it works. Each Member shares this responsibility and must agree, before being appointed, to abide by this Code. The Code is based on the Cabinet Office guidance for non-departmental public bodies , but also includes other provisions relevant to the remit and work of CoRWM. The Code is based on the Cabinet Office guidance for non-departmental public bodies, but also includes other provisions relevant to the remit and work of CoRWM. The Code is also compatible with the guidance set out in the Principles of Scientific Advice to Government , and the Code of Conduct for Scientific Advisory Bodies .

Public Service Values

2) Members of this advisory non-departmental public body must at all times:

  • observe the highest standards of impartiality, integrity and objectivity in relation to the recommendations they produce and the management of this public body;
  • be accountable to the sponsoring Ministers and their departments for its activities and for the standard of advice and recommendations it produces; and
  • in accordance with Government policy on openness, comply fully with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

3) The Ministers of the sponsoring departments are answerable to their Parliament or Assembly for the policies and performance of this body, including the policy framework within which it operates.

Standards in Public Life

4) All Members must:

  • follow the Seven Principles of Public Life set out by the Committee on Standards in Public Life;
  • comply with this code and ensure they understand their duties, rights and responsibilities and that they are familiar with the function and role of this body and any relevant statements of Government (UK government and the Devolved Administrations) policy; and
  • not misuse information gained in the course of their public service for personal gain or political purpose, nor seek to use the opportunity of public service to promote their private interests or those of connected persons, firms, businesses or other organisations.

Responsibility of individual members

5) Members are appointed to CoRWM in a personal capacity thereby bringing to the Committee’s deliberations their particular knowledge, skills and experience. They are not appointed to the Committee to represent the interests of organisations by whom they are employed or with whom they may be associated but, rather, to consider all views and evaluate them in an objective manner in contributing to the Committee’s work.

6) Members have collective responsibility for the operation of this body. They must:

  • engage fully in collective consideration of the issues, taking account of the full range of relevant factors, including guidance issued by the sponsor departments or the responsible Ministers;
  • ensure that the Freedom of Information legislation (including prompt responses to public requests for information) is adhered to; and agree an Annual Report;
  • respond appropriately to complaints, if necessary with reference to the sponsor departments; and
  • ensure that the Committee does not exceed its functions.

7) The Secretary of CoRWM should be advised of any forthcoming publication by a CoRWM Member relating to radioactive waste management, and its publication date, which refers to a member as being a member of CoRWM. A copy of that publication should be provided to the Secretary on publication.

8) Individual Committee members can normally be removed from office by Ministers if they fail to perform the duties required of them in line with the standards expected in public office, including failure to adhere to this Code of Conduct.

9) When CoRWM members are acting as observers at meetings, they will refrain from participating in discussion and contributing views, unless invited to.

10) CoRWM members will ensure factual accuracy of meeting notes, wherever possible checking with meeting participants, before circulating to the rest of the Committee.

Communicating, and commenting on, the work of CoRWM

11) Only the CoRWM Chair and Deputy Chair, or in their absence the CoRWM Secretary, is authorised to write, or speak on behalf of the Committee. Members of CoRWM may be authorised by the Chair or Deputy Chair to write or speak on behalf of CoRWM on specific occasions. CoRWM members must clarify their capacity when speaking at events i.e. whether they are representing their own views, or those of the Committee.

12) Any Members seeking to comment on the work of the Committee and its views beyond the details which are contained in its published material should seek the Chair or the Deputy Chair’s permission to do so. Members should acknowledge the need to act collectively in making information and views available to the public and Ministers. In addition, Members should recognise that their membership of CoRWM conveys a special privilege; hence any public statement should be sensitive to the context within which it will be interpreted, given particularly the need to maintain the integrity and credibility of the policy formulation process involved.

13) Communications between the Committee and Ministers will generally be through the Chair except where in the absence of the Chair or Deputy Chair, the Committee has agreed that individual members should act on its behalf. Nevertheless, any Member has the right of access to Ministers on any matter which he or she believes raises important issues relating to his or her duties as a CoRWM Member. In such cases the agreement of the Chair and the rest of the Committee should normally be sought.

14) Committee papers will be identified as “Official” (e.g. for discussion before being released to the public and other stakeholders) or “Public”. Members who wish to show non-Members any information contained in “Restricted” documents, must obtain the prior consent of the Chair or the Deputy Chair. The use of a “Official Sensitive” marking shall be primarily to ensure that interim working papers and drafts are not misrepresented as being the final collective views of the Committee.

Decision-making within CoRWM

15) CoRWM should wherever possible reach decisions by consensus and the text of reports or publications should reflect such consensus.

16) In those circumstances where consensus cannot be achieved and, despite the best efforts of the Committee, substantial numbers of Members hold alternative views, the relevant text of any report or publication should reflect the differences in, and relative weight of, opinion within the Committee. In declaring an interest, a Member may decide to disassociate himself from a particular text and this would be recorded in the text. This would be the proper course of action if the Member held views which differed from the overwhelming majority of the Committee.

17) Members do not have an absolute right to submit a minority report for inclusion within a CoRWM report or publication. The text of the CoRWM report or publication should adequately reflect any significant differences in opinion. Nevertheless, if a Member or small group of Members still wish to include a minority report this would only be acceded to by a majority vote at a properly constituted meeting, or by postal ballot. On the understanding that such procedures are followed, Members should not take personal initiatives to disassociate themselves publicly from CoRWM’s reports or publications.

18) In circumstances where a difference of view exists, sponsoring Ministers retain the right to request the Chair for his or her personal perception of the predominant Committee view.

The Role of the Chair

19) The Chair has particular responsibility for providing effective leadership on the issues above. In addition, the Chair is responsible for:

  • ensuring that the Committee meets at appropriate intervals, and that the minutes of meetings and any reports to Ministers accurately record the decisions taken and, where appropriate, the views of individual members;
  • ensuring that reports of the Committee’s work and its outcome are openly and accurately published;
  • representing the views of the Committee to the general public; and
  • ensuring new Committee Members are briefed on appointment, carrying out annual assessments of members’ performance and providing an assessment of their performance, on request, at any stage of the Committee’s work or for appointment to the board of some other public body.

Handling Conflicts of Interests

20) The purpose of these provisions is to avoid any danger of Members being influenced, or appearing to be influenced, by their private interests in the exercise of their public duties. All Committee Members should therefore declare any personal or business interest which may, or may be perceived (by a reasonable member of the public) to, influence their judgement. This should include, as a minimum, personal direct and indirect pecuniary interests, and should normally also include, such interests of close family members and of people living in the same household . The register of interests should be kept up-to-date and be open to the public. A declaration of any interest should also be made at any Committee meeting if it relates specifically to a particular issue under consideration, for recording in the minutes (whether or not a Committee members also withdraws from the meeting).

21) Committee Members should not participate in the discussion or determination of matters in which they have an interest, and should normally withdraw from the meeting (even if held in public) if:

  • their interest is direct and pecuniary; or
  • their interest is covered in specific guidance issued by this body or the sponsor departments which required them not to participate and/or to withdraw from the meeting.

22) In consideration of future business appointments, Committee Members should consider the rules in place around conflicts of interests that are followed while serving on the Committee. Committee Members should consider the need for making the Department aware of potential future business appointments, where conflicts of interest could arise, for a period of one year after resignation or retirement.

Personal liability of Panel members

23) Legal proceedings by a third party against individual Committee members of advisory bodies are extremely exceptional. A Committee member may be personally liable, for example, if he or she makes a fraudulent or negligent statement which results in a loss to a third party; or breaches a duty of confidence under common law or if he or she misuses information gained through their position.

24) If legal proceedings are brought against members by a third party DECC will meet any civil liability which is incurred in the exercise of member functions unless the member concerned has acted recklessly and provided the member has acted honestly and in good faith.

Raising concerns

25) If you have a concern about a possible breach of this Code, or a concern that the staff of the body are being asked to act in contravention of their own code of conduct, then you have a responsibility to raise that internally with other board members or the chair of the body.

26) There may be rare occasions involving very serious or urgent concerns where you feel it would not be appropriate to raise the issue internally in the body (either with the chair or any nominated official in the body). If it is not possible to raise the issue internally, you should raise it with the Permanent Secretary of the parent/sponsor department or, in the most extreme cases, with the Minister responsible for the body.

updated October 2015