The work of the Members of the Storting is regulated by the Norwegian Constitution, the Storting’s Rules of Procedure, special laws and regulations that apply to the Members, and the resolutions that are adopted by the Presidium. In addition to this, Members are subject to the same laws and regulations as all other citizens. Members must also be conscious of standards and principles of an ethical nature.
The role of Member of the Storting is Norway’s foremost position of trust.
The confidence of the electorate must be safeguarded in accordance with the Constitution and the formal rules and regulations, and great demands are placed on the integrity of the individual Member.
Members have a joint responsibility to preserve and reinforce the people’s trust in the Storting and to protect the reputation and quality of the Storting.
Each Member is expected to conduct him- or herself in accordance with formal rules and general ethical principles. In order to protect the legitimacy of the Storting, it is both a given and a matter of particular importance that Members abide by the laws and rules that pertain to the business of the Storting. The role of Member of the Storting brings with it a particular criminal liability for breach of constitutional duties.
Members shall further the public interest and not exploit their position for personal gain.
Members must be clearly aware that their conduct is particularly exposed to public scrutiny. If a Member is faced with potentially difficult conflicts of interest or other ethical dilemmas, openness concerning such questions may engender confidence and reduce the risk of misunderstanding and speculation.
The Presidium’s purpose of the guidelines is to contribute to raising ethical awareness and reflection about the Member’s role and to call to mind certain rules and regulations, principles and conditions that Members should pay particular attention to.
The General Civil Penal Code has three provisions on the subject of corruption: Corruption (Section 387), gross corruption (Section 388) and trading in influence, i.e. that an intermediary is offered an improper advantage in return for influencing a decision-maker (Section 389).
Corruption is defined as requesting, receiving or accepting an offer of an improper advantage in connection with the performance of a post, office or commission.
Abuse of the position of Member of the Storting to gain an improper advantage for oneself or others could be deemed as corruption punishable by law. The aim of the service or payment has a crucial role in the assessment of impropriety. If it may be proved that the advantage gained was intended to influence the decision-maker’s actions, it will normally be deemed as improper. An advantage may be improper even if it is intended to benefit others than the decision-maker him- or herself. In this context, the word advantage has a broad definition, and may not necessarily have an economic or material value. However, in cases where this is so, the value’s size will form the natural basis for the assessment of impropriety.
Members who engage in inter-parliamentary cooperation and/or take part in election observation missions, should in particular be aware that they might be exposed to this kind of undue pressure.
Gifts received in connection with normal representation will rarely be deemed to be improper. The degree of openness about the relation also has significance. The same may be said for what may be regarded as customary behaviour for the activity in question.
The above-mentioned provisions in the Penal Code regarding corruption assume intent. The prescribed penalty limits for corruption are fines or a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, depending on which provision in the Penal Code is applied.
A separate set of guidelines on gifts sets out which economic benefits/gifts are acceptable to receive in connection with the discharge of the position of Member of the Storting.
Information and contact
In his or her role as a Member of the Storting, a Member is expected to keep generally acquainted with and to look for knowledge and information regarding matters that are to be considered in parliament. The most essential information received by the Members is publicly accessible. The Storting has provided for the open access to information through, inter alia, public hearings and committee trips. Beyond this there is no obligation for Members to be open about who they have met or what information they have received in connection with the preparation of a matter or other aspects relating to the exercise of their duties as a Member. It is a matter of personal discretion for each Member to decide who to meet and who to receive information from. In meetings with lobbyists it is important for Members to ensure that they are informed about which interests the lobbyists represent.
Members ought to be aware that there is often public interest attached to who they meet and in which context. It is the responsibility of the individual Member to pursue this contact in such a way that there is no cause for uncertainty that the position he or she takes in the matter in question has come under undue influence.
This aspect is also relevant for Members who engage in inter-parliamentary cooperation.
Openness, transparency and duty of confidentiality
Public openness and transparency about the activities and decision-making processes in the Storting are prerequisites for confidence in the Storting and the Members. Freedom of information is also an essential condition for an efficient democracy.
The Constitution states that sittings in the Storting must be open to the public. The Storting’s Rules of Procedure contain provisions on public hearings and state that all Members must register their appointments and economic interests in a public register. The general public may follow the activities of the Storting and the decision-making processes via the Storting’s website by means of the transmission of sittings and hearings and through access to a broad range of written materials.
The Storting complies by the principles of the Freedom of Information Act. It has also adopted its own rules on the right of access to Storting documents. A Member’s freedom of speech is a constitutional right. Nevertheless, Members are pledged to secrecy on all matters that are dealt with in camera in the Storting and on other information that is explained in more detail in Section 75 of the Storting’s Rules of Procedure. Members are not permitted to quote statements made by other committee members during in-camera committee meetings, or to quote other factions’ comments or proposals before a recommendation has been submitted.
Duty of attendance and competence
The duty of attendance as a consequence of Article 63 of the Constitution obliges all Members of the Storting to participate in the consideration of matters in the Storting. Participation in debates and votes is a central part of the business of the Storting. Article 73 of the Constitution states that the Storting shall not hold a sitting unless at least half of the Members are present, and that at least two thirds of the Members shall be present for the consideration of Bills concerning amendments to the Constitution. Members are obliged to take a standpoint in matters. All Members who are present in the Chamber when a matter is voted on are obliged to vote. Duty of attendance also applies in the committees.
An informal system has been established between the parliamentary party groups – the parliamentary pairing system – which is a practical way of arranging Members’ absence. Leave of absence may be granted pursuant to Section 5 of the Storting’s Rules of Procedure. When the Storting grants leave of absence, a Substitute Member attends with the same rights and obligations.
Neither the Constitution nor the Rules of Procedure contains provisions regarding a Member’s competence. Only in exceptional cases will a Member be disqualified from participating in the consideration of a matter. In accordance with prevailing practice this will be the case for the consideration of a Member’s credentials after a parliamentary election and for the consideration of questions relating to the constitutional responsibility of the Member. Such situations occur rarely.
The Storting does not comprise part of the public administration, and it is not natural for the activities of the Storting to be subject to the same conflict of interest rules that apply there. Storting resolutions most commonly rest on political judgements and are of a different character to administrative decisions. They are made by the Storting in plenary, often after proposals from the Government, and they are more general than administrative decisions.
The principle of the representation of the people implies that the members of a national assembly have a broad attachment to professions and businesses, sections of the population and interests in different parts of the country. To the extent that Members contribute to adopting a resolution that may have advantages or disadvantages for themselves, as a rule the matter will concern interests that cover larger groups in society rather than special interests that are restricted to one or few Members or those close to them.
However, there may be reason to bear in mind that Members, as part of the political public sphere, must be prepared to have their objectivity and impartiality examined. It is the responsibility of the individual to exercise discretion in cases where a matter explicitly affects the Member’s own or family’s interests. In such cases, the Member ought to assess whether or not to take on responsibility or act as spokesperson in public, be this during consideration of the matter in committee, in the parliamentary party group, or in the public debate on the matter. It is also recommended that the individual Member considers whether there is reason to inform the committee, his or her parliamentary party group and other Members about circumstances that might be perceived as a conflict of interest during the consideration of a particular matter, and which these people ought to be made aware of. Such information may contribute to preventing unnecessary speculation about concealed motives. Furthermore, relevant information may also be submitted in the Register of Members of the Storting’s Appointments and Economic Interests according to Article 15 in the Rules of the Register. This should in particular be considered when the information already registered, does not reflect the situation at hand.
Members who believe that they have an especially strong personal interest in a matter under consideration, and who deem this to be a conflict of interest, may raise the matter with the Presidium, which can make a recommendation on what method of approach to take. The Presidium may e.g. recommend that information on an individual Member’s particular connection to a matter dealt with in the Storting, be registered according to Article 15 as mentioned above. That being said, the final decision on how to deal with such situations, is the responsibility of the individual, even if he or she has made the decision to consult with others.
These issues are also relevant for Members who engage in inter-parliamentary cooperation and election observation missions. Most inter-parliamentary assemblies have guidelines for handling a potential conflict of interest. Members who are part of international delegations are recommended to study such guidelines.
Registration of appointments and economic interests
Transparency and openness surrounding the Members’ affiliation and commitments to organizations and business is of great importance to public confidence in the Members.
Members and Substitute Members have a duty to register their appointments and economic interests in accordance with Section 76 of the Storting’s Rules of Procedure and the Regulation on the Register of Members of the Storting’s Appointments and Economic Interests.
The purpose of the register is to provide open and complete information about Members’ appointments and economic interests that are of legitimate public interest. Even if the Member him- or herself is of the opinion that such affiliations and commitments have no influence on the standpoints he or she takes in matters under consideration in the Storting, the Storting has come to the conclusion that it is in the legitimate public interest to know about them. The information contained in the register will be able to contribute to explaining the relationship between the individual’s role as Member of the Storting and his or her private interests.
It should be underlined that the position of Member of the Storting does not in itself preclude holding other appointments or economic interests, but it is viewed as ill-judged for a Member to have concealed interests or income within the areas covered by the register.
Circumstances subject to regulation are appointments in private or public bodies, but not unpaid appointments in political parties. Independent income-producing activities carried out by the Member him- or herself or through a company, or paid employment or contract work that is undertaken in addition to the individual’s role as Member shall be declared. Agreements of a financial nature made with former or future employers or contractors shall be registered. The same applies to any financial support from individuals or bodies other than the Storting. Real property that is used for business purposes, with certain exceptions, must also be registered. The registration requirement also applies to company interests in business activities.
Trips and visits abroad in connection with the role of Member of the Storting shall also be registered if they are not covered in full by public funds, by the political party the Member represents, or by the Member personally. Gifts or other financial benefits of a value of more than NOK 2 000 must also be registered. See the Regulation on Gifts for more detailed information.
A Member may register the necessary information him- or herself by use of the electronic form available on the Storting’s intranet.
It is each individual Member’s responsibility to notify about circumstances subject to regulation. For the Register to have the necessary credibility, it is essential that Members provide correct and complete information as indicated in the Regulation. This prerequisite will enable questions raised about a Member’s financial situation to be assessed on an impartial and correct basis.
More detailed information about circumstances subject to regulation may be found in the Regulation on the Register of Members of the Storting’s Appointments and Economic Interests.
Remuneration and expenses
Members of the Storting must make responsible use of the resources that are placed at their disposal for the completion of their duties. Members are expected to adhere strictly to the regulations on remuneration and expenses. Members may be required to repay remuneration they have received for which there is no justifiable claim.
It is essential for Members to acquaint themselves with the regulations, which are accessible on the Storting’s intranet and on the parliamentary website.
Advice and consultation
Members of the Storting who have questions relating to the topics raised in these guidelines may contact the Constitutional Department for advice. Questions that concern the registration of appointments and economic interests may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or to the member of staff given under “Appointments and Economic Interests” on the intranet. The same applies to questions relating to the receipt of gifts, such as whether or not a gift may be kept.
The Members’ Services Section may be contacted at email@example.com for questions relating to remuneration and expenses, or for help in obtaining a better overview of expenses in connection with official travel, etc.
Questions of principle or matters in which there may be uncertainty may be put before the Presidium by the Storting’s administration.
Guidelines on Gifts for Members of the Storting