PM warned against scrapping the role of ethics adviser

LONDON (Parliament Politics Magazine) – Following Lord Geidt’s resignation, the government’s previous anti-corruption champion has stated it would be quite a significant mistake for Boris Johnson to eliminate the ethics advisor’s job.

Official spokesperson for Johnson said on Thursday that the prime minister would not begin to look for Geidt’s replacement right now, but would instead look into the procedures for enforcing the ministerial code.

Geidt mentioned Johnson’s problematic approach to the Partygate controversy as one of the reasons for his departure in a resignation letter which he strongly worded and was published by Downing Street on Thursday.

However, he made it plain that the final straw had been Johnson’s call for Geidt to accept a plan of extending tariffs on steel imports, which might violate WTO rules, putting the government in violation of international law.

John Penrose, who resigned from the anti-corruption function last week, said this about the ethic adviser role:

You could obviously alter the role a little, but you shouldn’t make it any weaker.

It was fine if you were intending to write a revised edition as a successor to Lord Geidt, with a fresh format and a new approach to the problem. But the question should be how, not if.

You can’t act as if it didn’t matter or as if there was no work to be done.

He just believes that the prime minister was currently overdrawn, if he might put it that way, on his account with both the voters and the parliamentary party, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. They must demonstrate that they were committed to this.

He would say that that was part of the reset that the prime minister had clearly stated he wanted after last week’s vote of no confidence. That was good for him. It would  be a good way for being a part of it and help it move ahead.

Paul Scully, the business minister, had stated that he would be fine without an ethics adviser as long as a system was in place to hold cabinet members accountable.

Scully told Sky News that he could declare Boris Johnson upheld good standards when asked.

Yes, he could. He believes Lord Geidt had resigned around the debate when the PM had asked for his advice on assisting industries in the coming months.

He continued, 

In terms of the prime minister’s behaviour, he was right to want to put an end to so-called partygate since people were more concerned about the rising cost of living and what it would mean for their mortgages and bills in the coming days and months.

When asked, would he be content if no one was chosen to replace Lord Geidt as ministerial standards adviser, Scully said that he believed he would be comfortable with that as long as there was a process in place to guarantee that the prime minister and he, as minister, were held to the highest standards possible.

They wanted to make sure that the ministerial code was followed because it (enshrined) the ideas that they all stand for, not just as MPs when they first entered the House, but also when they accepted office as ministers.