Boris Johnson ‘uniquely poorly suited’ as gatekeeper of conduct
Boris Johnson is “uniquely poorly suited” as the gatekeeper of ministerial conduct, Labour says as it calls on the new Prime Minister to toughen up the rules.
It follows reports the new Home Secretary Priti Patel failed to properly consult the independent Advisory Committee on Business Appointments before taking up a paid role after her departure as Secretary of State for International Development.
Four members of Johnson’s new Cabinet have faced similar allegations in recent years, including the Education Secretary who was previously sacked for being accused of leaking highly sensitive information.
Citing Johnson’s own behaviour, Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office Jon Trickett has written to the Prime Minister saying:
“The public could also be forgiven for thinking that you are uniquely poorly suited to enforce the Code, as is the Prime Minister’s responsibility.”
He adds: “There is a simple principle that should apply across government: those that break the rules should have no involvement in writing or enforcing them.”
Trickett’s letter calls for “far-reaching action” to toughen up the Code and guarantee independent enforcement of it.
Jon Trickett said:
“Like Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and his fellow Conservative ministers are in it for themselves.
“There has never been a Cabinet so detached from the rest of the country.
“If elected, Labour will overhaul government so it works for the many and not just the rich and powerful.”
Notes to Editor
The full text of the letter is:
Dear Prime Minister,
I wrote to you on Friday to request an investigation into a potential breach of the Ministerial Code by the newly appointed Home Secretary, Priti Patel MP. This concerns Patel’s reported failure to properly consult the independent Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACoBA) before taking up employment in the two years following her departure as Secretary of State for International Development, as required by section 7.25 of the Code.
The details of this case have been reported by the Guardian newspaper, but I am now writing to discuss the Code more broadly, as I believe the incident highlights the need for further, more far-reaching action concerning the Code.
The last three years have seen an unprecedented number of accusations of breaking the Code against Conservative Party ministers. The accusation against Patel is just the latest of many.
At least four members of your Cabinet have in the last three years faced this accusation for a range of respective offences, including failing to appropriately declare a gift from a private company that could have given rise to a perceived conflict of interest, attending an unauthorised meeting with officials of another country, endorsing a private healthcare company in a sponsored newspaper supplement, and reportedly leaking highly sensitive information.
On each of these occasions the minister in question appears to have failed to uphold the standards of transparency and openness expected by the Code, even if they faced no sanction.
These senior ministers now hold key government positions as Minister of State for Housing, Home Secretary, Secretary of State for Health, and Secretary of State for Education. They are joined in the Cabinet by a considerable number of ministers whose behaviour in government and as MPs has in the past also failed to meet these standards.
In light of this, the public could be forgiven for thinking that this is yet another high-profile example of politicians breaking the rules and getting rewarded for it. The public could also be forgiven for thinking that you are uniquely poorly suited to enforce the Code, as is the prime minister’s responsibility.
I refer here to the numerous accusations levelled at yourself for breaking the Code and the standards expected of MPs, including using government resources to host the launch of a dark money think-tank and failing to notify parliamentary authorities when returning to your job at The Daily Telegraph. There is also growing public concern over your relationship to corporate lobbyists, and the actual or perceived conflict of interest that may arise from this, which the Code addresses in Section 7.
There is a simple principle that should apply across government: those that break the rules should have no involvement in writing or enforcing them.
For this reason, and in order to reassure the public that politicians are not a ‘class above’, I believe it is vital that you take urgent action to reassure the public that your administration will uphold the highest standards of good governance.
It is imperative that you deliver a statement in the House on how the Code will be toughened up to ensure that unethical behaviour currently deemed acceptable is no longer tolerated, and how enforcement of the Code will be independently guaranteed under your prime ministership. Specifically, it is in the public interest that the following questions are answered:
– What action will your government take to ensure that the integrity and effectiveness of the Code is upheld?
– Whether any such action will be independent of No.10 Downing Street?
– What consideration was given to past transgressions of the Code when appointing your Cabinet?
Politicians aren’t perfect, and nor should they be, but it’s time to put the public before your party.
I await your reply.
Jon Trickett MP
Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office