Code of conduct for members of the ACNFP

In common with other independent committees, members of the ACNFP are obliged to abide by the Code of Conduct for Scientific Advisory Committees.

The Code of Conduct

Members do not represent any organisation or commercial interests on the ACNFP. They are required to provide details of any personal or non-personal interests and to declare these before discussions begin on any item to which they might relate. The Chair can then decide whether they should be allowed to participate in the consideration of that item. Members' interests are listed each year in the ACNFP Annual Report and a copy can be obtained from the Secretariat or from this website.

Public service values

The members of the ACNFP must at all times:

  • observe the highest standards of impartiality, integrity and objectivity in relation to the advice they provide and the management of this Committee;
  • be accountable, through the Board of the Food Standards Agency and Health Ministers, to Parliament and the public for its activities and for the standard of advice it provides.

The Board of the FSA and Health Ministers are answerable to Parliament for the policies and performance of this Committee, including the policy framework within which it operates.

Standards in Public Life

All Committee 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 Committee and any relevant statements of Government policy. If necessary members should consider undertaking relevant training to assist them in carrying out their role;
  • not misuse information gained in the course of their public service for personal gain or for 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; and
  • not hold any paid or high-profile unpaid posts in a political party, and not engage in specific political activities on matters directly affecting the work of this Committee. When engaging in other political activities, Committee members should be conscious of their public role and exercise proper discretion. These restrictions do not apply to MPs (in those cases where MPs are eligible to be appointed), to local councillors, or to Peers in relation to their conduct in the House of Lords.

Role of Committee members

Members have collective responsibility for the operation of this Committee. They must:

  • engage fully in collective consideration of the issues, taking account of the full range of relevant factors, including any guidance issued by the Food Standards Agency or Health Ministers;
  • in accordance with Government policy on openness, ensure that they adhere to the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information (including prompt responses to public requests for information); agree an Annual Report; and, where practicable and appropriate, provide suitable opportunities to open up the work of the Committee to public scrutiny;
  • not divulge any information which is provided to the Committee in confidence;
  • ensure that an appropriate response is provided to complaints and other correspondence, if necessary with reference to the sponsor department; and
  • ensure that the Committee does not exceed its powers or functions.

Individual members should inform the Chairman (or the Secretariat on his or her behalf) if they are invited to speak in public in their capacity as a Committee member.

Communications between the Committee and the Board of the Food Standards Agency will generally be through the Chairman except where the Committee has agreed that an individual member should act on its behalf. Nevertheless, any member has the right of access to the Board of the FSA on any matter which he or she believes raises important issues relating to his or her duties as a Committee member. In such cases the agreement of the rest of the Committee should normally be sought.

Individual members can be removed from office by the Board of the Food Standards Agency, if they fail to perform the duties required of them in line with the standards expected in public office.

The role of the Chairman

The Chairman has particular responsibility for providing effective leadership on the issues above. In addition, the Chairman is responsible for

  • ensuring that the Committee meets at appropriate intervals, and that the minutes of meetings and any reports to the Board of the Food Standards Agency accurately record the decisions taken and, where appropriate, the views of individual members;
  • representing the views of the Committee to the general public; and
  • ensuring that new members are briefed on appointment (and their training needs considered), and providing an assessment of their performance, on request, when members are considered for re-appointment to the Committee or for appointment to the board of some other public body.

Handling conflicts of interests

The purpose of these provisions is to avoid any danger of Committee members being influenced, or appearing to be influenced, by their private interests in the exercise of their public duties. All members should declare any personal or business interest which may, or may be perceived (by a reasonable member of the public) to, influence their judgement.

(i) Declaration of Interests to the Secretariat

Members of the Committee should inform the Secretariat in writing of their current personal and non-personal interests, when they are appointed, including the principal position(s) held. Only the name of the company and the nature of the interest is required; the amount of any salary etc. need not be disclosed. Members are asked to inform the Secretariat at any time of any change of their personal interests and will be invited to complete a declaration form once a year. It is sufficient if changes in non-personal interests are reported in the annual declaration form following the change. (Non-personal interests involving less than £1,000 from a particular company in the previous year need not be declared to the Secretariat).

The register of interests should be kept up-to-date and be open to the public.

(ii) Declaration of Interest and Participation at Meetings

Members of the Committee are required to declare any direct interests relating to salaried employment or consultancies, or those of close family members, in matters under discussion at each meeting. Having fully explained the nature of their interest the Chairman will, having consulted the other members present, decide whether and to what extent the member should participate in the discussion and determination of the issue. If it is decided that the member should leave the meeting, the Chairman may first allow them to make a statement on the item under discussion.

Personal liability of Committee members

A Committee member may be personally liable if he or she makes a fraudulent or negligent statement which results in a loss to a third party; or may commit a breach of confidence under common law or a criminal offence under insider dealing legislation, if he or she misuses information gained through their position.

However, the Government has indicated that individual members who have acted honestly, reasonably, in good faith and without negligence will not have to meet out of their own personal resources any personal civil liability which is incurred in execution or purported execution of their Committee functions save where the person has acted recklessly. To this effect, a formal statement of indemnity has been drawn up.