The Privy Council is to examine ACCA's Code of Practice. The ACCA has sought to enforce this Code not only upon the members of its Council but also on candidates for Council elections.
The Code amongst other things requires Council members to
"explain and support the policies formally adopted by Council even where these may differ from their individual views .... [and]
refrain from making public pronouncements which are at variance with Councilís formal position even where that position may differ from their individual views".
ACCA Code was developed in 1995. It failed to consult its members or the public in drafting the Code. The Code is contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights which now forms part of the UK's Human Rights Act 1998. The Act is due to come into force on 2nd October 2000. The ACCA Code was drafted before the Bill for the Act was introduced in the UK.
Under clause 6 of the Act, ACCA is deemed to be a 'public body' though it has some 'private' functions (e.g. wasting money on share and property speculation, making television programmes). Case law (such as the 1987 Appeal Court decision in Datafin) also shows that ACCA is a 'public body'.
Articles 9 and 10 of the Act safeguard freedom of thought, expression, conscience. All public authorities have a positive obligation to ensure that respect for human rights is at the core of their day to day work. This means that they should act in a way that positively reinforces the principles of the Human Rights Act. The Human Rights Act underpins this by making it unlawful for a public authority to act (or fail to act) in a way which is incompatible with a Convention right. This covers all aspects of the public authority's activities including: Drafting rules and regulations, Internal staff and personnel issues, Administrative procedures, Decision making, Policy implementation and Interaction with members of the public.
Any 'public body' violating the law will commit an offence and the victims can appeal to the courts.
ACCA's Code violates the Human Rights Act 1998 as it asks its current and potential Council members to support the official view even if they disagree with the policies. For example, if the ACCA is not being diligent in performing the tasks delegated to it under the Companies Act 1989, or the Insolvency Act 1986, or if it is being unfair in its disciplinary proceedings, the concerned Council members cannot make a public statement. If its policies arre racist and undemocratic, it requires Council members to keep quiet.
At the May 2000 AGM, ACCA members (only a tiny number voted) voted for the Code of Practice. However, it cannot be incorporated into ACCA by-laws until it is approved by the "The Lords of Our Most Honourable Privy Council". In practice this means the Privy Council (i.e. Ministers) acting without the Queen. Her Majesty's express approval is not needed for the changes to ACCA by-laws. It is only needed for amendments to the Royal Charter.
The Privy Council in reality requires the approval from the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) and possibly the Home Office. The result is that the state (a 'public body' by any definition) has to approve the changes requested by ACCA. Can the state on the one hand argue that it is promoting human freedoms, yet on the other hand give its support to the oppressive rules of the ACCA?
The Privy Council has now stated that it has received ACCA's request to change its by-laws. However, it has withheld approval and is seeking advice before making its decision. AABA has alerted a number of human rights organizations to the oppressive rules of the ACCA. We also encourage concerned people to write directly to the Privy Council office to express their concerns about the oppressive rules of the ACCA. Please write to:
Privy Council Office
2 Carlton Gardens
London SW1Y 5AA
Comments can also be sent via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org