A standards commissioner should be appointed - at a cost of up to £30,000 a year - to investigate complaints about Tynwald members’ conduct, a committee has recommended.

The current Tynwald standards regime is based on the principle of self-regulation.

But a new approach was adopted in 2022 when an independent investigators was commissioned to carry out an investigation into events that led to the dismissal of Rob Callister as Minister for Health and Social Care.

Mr Callister was asked to apologise for breaching Tynwald standards of conduct by ‘engaging in repeated inappropriate comments’. Another independent investigator was brought in to investigate allegations of bullying made against the current Health Minister Lawrie Hooper and who cleared him of breaching the government code.

Now the standards and members’ interests committee is calling for a new approach.

In a report to be laid before this month’s Tynwald sitting, it is recommending the appointment of a standards commissioner.

Setting out the case for such an appointment, the committee said: ‘The advantages of appointing a standards commissioner are, in our view, self-evident

‘It removes any risk that the outcome of an investigation will be tainted by political bias, preserves impartiality and neutrality, and places the finding of fact and the making of an initial recommendation in the hands of someone whose only interest is in the integrity of the standards regime.’

It said another advantage as a small island jurisdiction is the possibility of appointing a standards commissioner who does not live here, bringing an extra degree of separation between investigator and the subject of the investigation, boosting confidence in the fairness and impartiality of the system.

The Tynwald commissioner for administration had been approached to ask if this could be incorporated into her role but she advised against such an approach. The committee said the model used since November 2022, of appointing investigating officers on an ad hoc basis to undertake particular assignments, had the merit of flexibility but came with significant disadvantages.

Every time the need for an investigation arises, a new procurement exercise has to be carried out, which is time-consuming and inefficient.

There is a limited pool of people with the skills and experience to undertake parliamentary standards inquiries and using different investigating officers at different times risks inconsistencies of approach which could undermine confidence in the system.

‘We conclude that the appointment of a parliamentary standards commissioner would be preferable to the present practice of appointing investigators on an ad hoc basis to undertake particular investigations,’ the committee states.

The cost of a parliamentary standards commissioner in any particular year would depend on the rate at which the commissioner was remunerated and the amount of work they did.

Jersey has had a standards commissioner since 2017.

In 2022 Guernsey decided to adopt a similar approach and collaborated with Jersey in the appointment of a ‘pan-islands commissioner for standards’.

The first holder of this joint role took up her post in March 2023.

Jersey said that from 2018 to 2022 the costs of their commissioner for standards was in the range £1,800 to £7,314. Costs in the first 10 months of 2023 rose to £26,250.

The committee concludes that a parliamentary standards commissioner would represent a new public service for which financial provision would be needed.

The cost is difficult to forecast with any confidence but could be up to around £30,000 per year,’ it said.