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Petition Independent scrutiny of alleged breaches of the Ministerial Code by the PM

The Prime Minister is the arbiter of conduct of Ministers in relation to the Code. However no mechanism exists to investigate alleged breaches of the Code by the PM. We request an independent scrutiny Committee for this purpose. He should not be exempt from scrutiny against this Code.

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When the PM became Leader of the Conservative Party and PM he set out his objectives in terms of conduct.

However this process is overseen by the Prime Minister. A mechanism needs to be put in place whereby the Prime Minister themselves is held accountable for these high standards.

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100,000

Government responded

This response was given on 12 November 2021

The Prime Minister is accountable to Parliament and the public. Mechanisms for conducting investigations set out within the Ministerial Code ensure an appropriate degree of independence.

In our constitutional system of parliamentary democracy, the Prime Minister, as the Head of Government, is the Sovereign’s principal adviser. This means that the Prime Minister has overall responsibility for the organisation of the Executive, and it is for the Prime Minister alone to advise the Sovereign on the exercise of the Royal Prerogative powers in relation to Government. It is the Prime Minister’s responsibility to set standards of behaviour for members of the Executive, and to account for the actions of the Government. These standards of behaviour are set out in the Ministerial Code that the Prime Minister issues. The Prime Minister is, therefore, the ultimate arbiter of the Ministerial Code given his constitutional position as the Sovereign’s principal adviser.

The Ministerial Code sets out that the Prime Minister is the ultimate judge of the standards of behaviour expected of a Minister and of the appropriate consequences of a breach of those standards. The Code also includes a clear process where there is an alleged breach of the Code. In such circumstances, if there is an allegation about a breach of the Code, and the Prime Minister, having consulted the Cabinet Secretary, feels that the alleged breach warrants further investigation, he may ask the Cabinet Office to investigate the facts of the case and/or refer the matter to the Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests. This includes investigations relating to the Prime Minister, as was exemplified when the Prime Minister asked the Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests, Lord Geidt, to ascertain the facts surrounding the refurbishment of the Downing Street residence.

The role of the Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests in investigations into matters of Ministerial conduct ensures independence in any such investigations. The Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests is an independent role, bound by the Seven Principles of Public Life. This ensures, therefore, that any investigations into Ministerial conduct, including the conduct of the Prime Minister, are independent. The Independent Adviser’s Terms of Reference guarantee that such work will be published, providing transparency into any investigation.

As set out in the Ministerial Code, Ministers are personally responsible for deciding how to act and how to conduct themselves in line with the Code and for justifying their actions and conduct to both Parliament and the public. This includes the Prime Minister, who is accountable to Parliament through mechanisms including Select Committees, oral and written questions, and statements to the Houses. This is the appropriate mechanism in a democracy as questions of the conduct of Government overall fall to the electorate at the ballot box. The Prime Minister is the leader of Her Majesty’s Government, and the Government is accountable to the British public at the ballot box at elections. This gives the British people the final and decisive say on the performance and conduct of the Government.

Cabinet Office

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Other parliamentary business

MPs hold inquiry into MPs Code of Conduct

The Committee on Standards is carrying out a comprehensive inquiry into the operation of the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament. This is the first stage in a multi-stage process of preparing a new text of the Code, and the associated Guide to the Rules. The committee has taken a range of oral and written evidence and intends to publish its initial report, with proposals for public consultation, by Christmas 2021.

You can find out more about this inquiry, and find future announcements, here: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/596/code-of-conduct/

Over the last year the committee has questioned witnesses on whether and how the Ministerial Code complements the House Code. The committee also received relevant written evidence, including from the Government and from the former Independent Adviser on the Ministerial Code.

You can read the transcripts of oral evidence and written evidence submitted to the committee here: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/596/code-of-conduct/publications/

We’re letting you know about this inquiry because you signed a petition calling on the Government to facilitate independent scrutiny of alleged breaches of the Ministerial Code by the Prime Minister, and we thought this inquiry may be of interest to you.

What is the Committee on Standards?

The Committee on Standards' role is to oversee the work of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and to decide on individual cases of breaches of the Code referred to it by the Commissioner. The Committee can also recommend any changes to the Code of Conduct.

Find out more on their website: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/290/committee-on-standards/

You can get updates on their work by following the Committee on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/HoCStandards

This is a ‘select committee’. Find out how Select Committees work:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_2RDuDs44c

You can also sign up to the UK Parliament newsletter for the latest information on how to get involved and make a difference: https://learning.parliament.uk/en/your-uk-parliament-newsletter-sign-up-form/

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