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Petition Independent body to adjudicate on compliance with the Ministerial Code

An external, non party political body (for example, the Committee on Standards in Public Life) should be made responsible for determining whether a Minister's behaviour has breached the Ministerial Code.

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Currently, the Prime Minister is responsible for deciding whether a Minister's actions compy with the Ministerial Code. The PM is both judge and jury in relation to complaints and is entirely free to reject the advice of his independent advisor. The system is wide open to abuse, with decisions on breaches of the Code potentially being influenced by irrelevant party political considerations, such as whether a Minister is popular with backbenchers or party members.

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Government responded

This response was given on 16 March 2021

Existing measures provide appropriate independence in Ministerial Code investigations, recognising the Prime Minister’s constitutional role in advising the Sovereign on the organisation of Government.

The Prime Minister customarily updates and issues the Ministerial Code upon assuming or returning to office. This reflects the constitutional position that it is for the Prime Minister alone to advise the Sovereign on the appointment, dismissal and acceptance of resignation of other Ministers.

The Ministerial Code sets out the Prime Minister’s expectations as to the standards of behaviour for Ministers. As such, the Prime Minister is the ultimate judge of the standards of behaviour expected of a Minister and the appropriate consequences of a breach of those standards.

The Ministerial Code sets out a clear procedure for responding to an alleged breach of the Code. Where the Prime Minister, having consulted the Cabinet Secretary, feels that an allegation warrants investigation, he can ask the Cabinet Office to investigate the facts of the case and/or refer the matter to the Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests.

Any investigation would be undertaken either by civil servants in the Cabinet Office, who are under a legal obligation to operate in accordance with the Civil Service Code, including the values of honesty and objectivity; or by the Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests. This ensures an appropriate level of independence for the investigation and ensures that free and frank advice can be provided to the Prime Minister, whilst also recognising that Ministers only remain in office for so long as they retain the confidence of the Prime Minister.

Cabinet Office

At 100,000 signatures...

At 100,000 signatures, this petition will be considered for debate in Parliament

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Petitions Committee requests a revised response from the Government

The Petitions Committee (the group of MPs who oversee the petitions system) have considered the Government’s response to this petition. They felt that the response did not directly address the request of petition and have therefore written back to the Government to ask them to provide a revised response.

When the Committee have received a revised response from the Government, this will be published on the website and you will receive an email. If you would not like to receive further updates about this petition, you can unsubscribe below.

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