Labour calls for new Independent Adviser for Ministerial Interests to be free to investigate without the Prime Minister’s permission
Following the announcement that Lord Geidt has been appointed as Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests, Labour are demanding that he be given powers to trigger investigations into Ministers himself.
Currently, the role holder of the Independent Adviser can only trigger investigations with the permission of the Prime Minister, and it is the Prime Minister who effectively marks his own homework and decides whether to make public any confirmed breaches as the arbiter of the Minister Code.
The Party have also highlighted how, with the government engulfed in sleaze scandals from crony contracts to Greensill, considering an independent trigger on one isolated potential breach of the Ministerial Code is not adequate – instead the Prime Minister should give the Independent Adviser proper powers to trigger investigations where he suspects a breach of the Ministerial Code.
On 17 April 2021, the Chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life highlighted how crucial it is for the Adviser to be able to trigger investigations saying the government “risks public trust” without effective probes.
On 26th April 2021, the Cabinet Secretary said in evidence in Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee that he would consider these recommendations.
On 28th April 2021, Sir Philip Moore, former Independent Advisor for Ministerial Interests highlighted on the Today programme the lack of these powers.
Transparency International have estimated that there are nine potential breaches of the Ministerial Code in 2020 alone.
Labour have stressed that the Independence of the Adviser must be guaranteed so that investigations into these can begin as soon as possible.
Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Rachel Reeves MP said
“In our country, the police don’t require the permission of a thief to investigate a burglary.
“The Prime Minister can’t be judge and jury on his Ministers’ – or indeed his own – behaviour.
“The Prime Minister shouldn’t be able to block investigations into his Ministers or himself when breaking the Ministerial Code.”