Ministerial Code rewritten by Boris Johnson ‘should be in independent hands’ says Andrew RT Davies
The Ministerial Code rewritten by Boris Johnson should be in the hands of an independent body, the leader of the Welsh Conservatives has said.
Andrew T Davies was responding to accusations that the prime minister had watered down the rules for ministers. The code was amended on Friday by the No 10 Cabinet Office to make clear they will not automatically lose their jobs if they breach it.
The new government policy document said it would be “disproportionate” to require ministers’ resignations for “any breach, however minor”.
Speaking on Sunday Supplement, Andrew RT Davies said that neither the Prime Minister in London nor the First Minister of Wales should be the “gatekeeper” of their own ministerial code.
“Whatever colour government is, whether it be a Labour government, a Conservative government, whether it be Westminster or Cardiff, the ministerial code should be in the hands of an independent commissioner, an independent person,” he said.
“Rather than the in our case in Cardiff, the First Minister, or in Westminster’s case, the Prime Minister, being the author, the judge and the jury on all matters relating to the ministerial code.
“I just don’t think in the second decade of the 21st century, that’s a sustainable position. And so I believe that the actual fundamental thing that we need in the ministerial code is putting that in the hands of an independent person similar to obviously what we as MS and what parliamentarians have in Westminster, having an independent Standards Commission.”
Andrew RT Davies added that “the way politics is run today, an independent person should be in charge of discipline”.
“And ultimately, that there are responsibilities that ministers assume in the way they conduct themselves in public life, similar obviously to what MPs and MSPs have at the moment.
“We have a standards Commissioner, so that if someone – a member of the public – wants to put a complaint in with that independent person with experience would investigate would arbitrate, and obviously either bring forward a report to say the complaint is upheld, or dismiss it.
“I’ve been on the record for many years saying that’s where I believe the process of government should work as well. But that’s not a party political point, because I think it’s the same for any government of any political colour.”
Labour have said that they will now attempt to force a Commons vote on changes to the ministerial code, accusing Boris Johnson of “trampling all over” long-standing principles.
When Parliament returns from week-long recess break, Labour said it will use an opposition day debate to ask MPs “to enshrine the commitment that ministers who commit serious breaches of the ministerial code will have to resign”.
“This cannot solely apply to misleading the House,” the party added.
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said: “Boris Johnson is behaving like a tin pot despot and is trampling all over the principles in public life.
“Many decent Conservative MPs are deeply uncomfortable with Johnson’s behaviour and they now have the chance to stop his sinister attempts at watering down standards and integrity in our democracy.
“Serious breaches of the ministerial code must result in resignation, whether they are deliberately misleading Parliament, bullying staff, bribery or sexual assault,” she added.
“This prime minister simply cannot be trusted to uphold standards in government while his conduct sinks further into the gutter and he gives the green light to corruption.”
A No 10 spokesperson said: “The prime minister expects all ministers to maintain high standards of behaviour and to behave in a way that upholds the highest standards of propriety.
“He carefully considered and agreed the final recommendations on sanctions from the Committee in Standards in Public Life and the independent advisor on ministerial interests made in April 2021, which are now reflected in the ministerial code.”
They added: “They said it is entirely reasonable and fair to have a range of sanctions for any breach – in the same way the House of Commons standards process has a range of sanctions.
“The new code also has increased the powers and status of the independent adviser on ministerial interests and the requirements on high standards and principles of public life are unchanged.”
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