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Standards Committee chair weighs in on PM’s ‘loosening’ of the ministerial code

28 May 2022 4 minutes Read
Chris Bryant speaking in the House of Commons

Chris Bryant, chairman of the Commons Standards Committee, said the “loosening” of the ministerial code by Boris Johnson showed why there should be an independent system in place for judging the conduct of ministers.

The Rhondda MP told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he disagreed with recommendations made by the independent Committee on Standards in Public Life and adopted by the Prime Minister which allow ministers to remain in their jobs for what could be deemed minor breaches of the code.

“Maybe this is what you would expect from people who have mostly been civil servants in the past – that’s how they end up on the Committee on Standards in Public Life – that they would support a strong government that is, broadly speaking, able to do what it likes,” Mr Bryant said.

“But I think what the last couple of years have shown, whether it is Priti Patel instances of bullying when she was basically found guilty of bullying staff in her office by the so-called independent adviser on ministerial interests, but then the Prime Minister decided not even to publish the report because he didn’t like it.

“I just think you have to end that process, you have to have a proper system whereby an independent figure, entirely without the Prime Minister’s involvement, decides whether or not to launch an investigation into a minister, and decides whether it is a very serious case or a less serious case, and then suggests the sanction.

“That’s not what the Prime Minister has got, it’s still all lies in the Prime Minister’s hands and we know, don’t we, that the Prime Minister always finds himself innocent in the court of his own opinion.”

Backlash

A UK Government policy statement on the ministerial code published yesterday sparked a backlash after it said it was “disproportionate” to expect ministers to resign or face the sack for “minor” violations of the code’s provisions.

Instead, it has been updated, giving the Prime Minister the option of ordering a lesser sanction such as “some form of public apology, remedial action or removal of ministerial salary for a period”.

It had previously expected that ministers should go if they were found to have breached the code.

At the same time Mr Johnson drew back from allowing his independent adviser on the code, Lord Geidt, to mount investigations into possible violations on his own initiative.

Under his revised terms of reference, there will be an “enhanced process” to enable him to initiate inquiries, but he will still require the Prime Minister’s consent before going ahead.

Liz Saville Roberts, leader of the Plaid Cymru group at Westminster accused the Prime Minister of a blatantly corrupt move’ to destroy accountability after changes to the Ministerial Code were announced.

“Just days after feigning contrition in response to the Sue Gray report in Parliament, Boris Johnson wrecks the Ministerial Code to allow ministers, including himself, to break the rules.

“This is a blatantly corrupt move to destroy what’s left of democratic accountability in Westminster.

“The fact that Welsh Conservative MPs continue to condone this shocking abuse of power is truly disgraceful. Boris Johnson must be removed from office,” she said.

Debasing

Labour’s Deputy leader Angela Rayner said Mr Johnson “is downgrading and debasing the principles of public life before our very eyes”.

“In a week when Boris Johnson’s lies to Parliament about industrial rule-breaking at the heart of Government were finally exposed, he should be tendering his resignation but is instead watering down the rules to save his own skin,” she added.

“Once again, Boris Johnson has demonstrated he is not serious about his pledge to address the scandal and sleaze engulfing his Government or the frequent and flagrant breaches of standards and rule-breaking that have taken place on his watch.”

Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain called the move “an appalling attempt by Boris Johnson to rig the rules to get himself off the hook.

“The Prime Minister shouldn’t be allowed to decide on his own punishment – with zero accountability.

“This is making him judge and jury in his own case.”


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Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
1 month ago

Good to hear that a Welsh Labour MP has the bottle to stand up and object to the latest de Piffle scandal. Of course it will not make any difference as all the Tories will stand shoulder to shoulder and back it.

Quornby
Quornby
1 month ago

Bryant is the worst kind of self publicist and sycophant. Of course he’s right about that jackass in No 10 but how many people in the UK don’t know that Johnson is the second worst PM ever?

Cynan
Cynan
1 month ago
Reply to  Quornby

What do you mean second? Who has been worse than this corrupt incompetent opportunist?

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
1 month ago

Typical of a corrupt politician – water down the code that he will be in breach of in the next few months due to his actions as mayor, lying to Parliament and flings with american buisiness women. It won’t save him, his time and that of this atrocious Tory government will end in 2024. (In the PM’s case probably before then).

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago

There’s no such thing as standards at Westminster, especially when you have house flipping Welsh devolution vote abstaining seedy Gay website pants wearing self-publicist Chris Bryant its chair.

Last edited 1 month ago by Y Cymro

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