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How the work of the Regulatory Policy Committee supports the Nolan Principles

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Better regulation, Evaluation, Independent scrutiny

The Seven Principles of Public Life (also known as the Nolan Principles) are: Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty and Leadership.

The principles apply to anyone who works as a public office-holder including all those who are elected or appointed to public office, and all people appointed to work in the Civil Service, local government, the police, courts and probation services, non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs), and in the health, education, social and care services. The principles also apply to all those in other sectors delivering public services.

The third of the seven principles, Objectivity, is defined by the Committee on Standards in Public Life as:

acting and taking decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.

The fourth, Accountability, requires that:

holders of public office are accountable to the public for decisions and action and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.

The sixth principle is Openness. This requires that:

holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.

These principles are at the very core of the work of the RPC and the objectives of the Better Regulation Framework – we support them in our independent scrutiny of Impact Assessments (which set out the evidence and analysis underpinning government regulatory proposals) and Post Implementation Reviews (which assess how far regulations have achieved their objectives and whether they have led to unintended consequences).

By independently reviewing Impact Assessments (IAs) and Post-implementation Reviews (PIRs) for robustness, impartiality and fitness for purpose, the RPC supports ministers in ensuring that the regulatory decisions they take are Objective.

By submitting PIRs to the RPC for independent scrutiny, Ministers demonstrate that they are Accountable for previous decisions and actions and have gone through the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.

By publishing the reasoning behind our opinions on government IAs and PIRs, the RPC ensures Openness and transparency about the quality of evidence and analysis underpinning government regulatory decisions.

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  1. Comment by Shana Begum posted on

    When a public organisation’s culture does not align with the NOLAN principles, implementing them becomes a challenging task. Employees may face obstacles and resistance when trying to adhere to these principles, especially if leadership does not demonstrate support for them. In such cases, individuals who raise concerns about management shortcomings may be unfairly penalised, creating a power imbalance that is often overlooked. It is crucial to establish processes that protect employees who may be in a vulnerable position.

    In order to successfully integrate the NOLAN principles into a public organisation, it is essential to prioritise and promote Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) across all public sector entities. By fostering a culture of respect and transparency through EDI initiatives, organisations can create a conducive environment for the NOLAN principles to thrive and be effectively implemented.

    Organisations can take several steps to address power imbalances and protect employees who raise concerns about management shortcomings. Some of these steps include:

    1. Implementing a clear and transparent whistleblowing policy that encourages employees to report any unethical behaviour or management shortcomings without fear of retaliation.

    2. Providing training and resources to employees on their rights and protections under whistleblowing laws and policies.

    3. Establishing an independent and confidential reporting mechanism for employees to raise concerns, ensuring that their identities are protected and that investigations are conducted impartially.

    4. Encouraging open communication and feedback channels between employees and management, fostering a culture of trust and accountability within the organisation.

    5. Holding leadership accountable for their actions and ensuring that they demonstrate support for ethical behavior and adherence to organisational principles.

    6. Conducting regular audits and assessments of organisational culture and practices to identify and address any power imbalances or issues that may be affecting employees' ability to raise concerns.

    7. Providing support and resources to employees who may be in vulnerable positions or facing retaliation for speaking out, including access to legal advice and counselling services without delay.

    Currently, this isn’t the case in some public sector organisations. The lack of accountability from senior management creates a culture of cover-ups and victimisation for anyone who challenges. Executive leaders are not even aware. In such environments, employees may feel discouraged from speaking out against management shortcomings or unethical behaviour, fearing retaliation or negative consequences for their careers. This lack of accountability not only perpetuates power imbalances within the organisation but also hinders transparency and undermines trust among employees.

    To address these issues, public organisations must prioritise accountability at all levels and ensure that employees feel empowered to raise concerns without fear of reprisal. By holding senior management accountable for their actions and fostering a culture of openness and transparency, organisations can create a safe and supportive environment where employees are encouraged to speak up and contribute to a culture of integrity and ethical conduct.

    We have many lived experiences people who have shared their experiences.

    By taking proactive measures to address power imbalances and protect employees who raise concerns, public organisations can create a safe and inclusive environment where ethical behaviour is valued, supported, where the NOLAN principles are adhered to.


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