Closed petition Introduce independent body to enforce the ministerial code on ministers.
It is clear that our democracy is broken and there is no accountability to the people in the highest form of Government. There needs to be a body which has the power to enforce the ministerial code on Ministers.
If Ministers create laws that they then break then they no longer retain the faith of many of the people. The current lack of accountability is shocking. People who make the law should set an example. Breaking the law, especially one you made should automatically mean being removed as a minister and barred from high office. Their needs to be an independent body with the power to remove ministers when they flout the ministerial code.
This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months
This response was given on 15 June 2022
The Government is accountable to Parliament and the British people. The Prime Minister issues and upholds the Ministerial Code in line with his position as head of Her Majesty’s Government.
The Government takes its commitment to high ethical standards very seriously. The Ministerial Code makes clear the Government’s commitment to the Seven Principles of Public Life, and sets out the Prime Minister’s expectation that all those who serve in Government should uphold the highest standards of behaviour and propriety at all times.
The Prime Minister’s constitutional role as Head of the Executive means that he has sole responsibility for the organisation of Her Majesty’s Government. This includes the recommendation of the appointment, dismissal and acceptance of resignation of other Ministers. Ministers hold office for as long as they hold the confidence of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is accountable to both Parliament and the public in the exercise of his powers as head of the Executive. The Government of the day must carry the confidence of the House of Commons; the Commons expressed this confidence in its recent vote on the Queen’s Speech.
The Ministerial Code is a document for which the Prime Minister is responsible. It sets out the Prime Minister’s guidance to all Ministers on how they should act and arrange their affairs in order to uphold the principles and standards of conduct which are set out therein.
How the Ministerial Code is applied and upheld
Ministers themselves are personally responsible for deciding how to act and conduct themselves in line with the Ministerial Code. However, the Prime Minister is the ultimate judge of the standards of behaviour expected of a Minister and the appropriate consequences were a breach of those standards to occur.
To assist him in discharging these responsibilities, the Prime Minister appoints an Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests. The Independent Adviser performs a critical role in conducting investigations into alleged breaches of the Ministerial Code, in order to provide the Prime Minister with independent advice on whether or not a Minister’s conduct has met the standards set out in the Code. Having received the Independent Adviser’s advice, it is then for the Prime Minister to judge whether the standards set out in the Code have been met, and the appropriate consequences in the event that they have not been upheld.
Changes to strengthen the Ministerial Code and role of the Independent Adviser
On 27 May 2022 the Government announced changes to strengthen the role of the Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests, which have been incorporated into an updated Ministerial Code. The changes include: an enhanced process for the Independent Adviser to initiate investigations; a more explicit duty on Ministers to provide the Independent Adviser with all information reasonably necessary for the discharge of his role; new detail on proportionate sanctions for a breach of the Code; that the Independent Adviser will in future be consulted about revisions to the Code, and enhancement of the independence of the Independent Adviser's office.
Taken together, these reforms provide a measured and principled approach to ensure high standards in public life, whilst ensuring democratic accountability of elected representatives to the British people via the ballot box.
In making these changes the Government carefully considered the recommendations made by the Committee on Standards in Public Life, alongside consulting the Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests, Lord Geidt.
An independent body with the power to remove Ministers
The Government does not support the introduction of an independent body to enforce the Ministerial Code with the power to remove ministers.
As set out above, it is a fundamental of the United Kingdom’s constitution that the Prime Minister, as the head of the Executive and the Sovereign’s principal adviser, has sole responsibility for the organisation of Her Majesty’s Government. It is for the Prime Minister alone to recommend the appointment, dismissal or acceptance of resignation of Her Majesty’s Ministers, and Ministers hold office for as long as they have the confidence of the Prime Minister. The creation of an independent, unelected quango to adjudicate the Ministerial Code and with the power to remove Ministers from office, would undermine, not strengthen, the democratic process.”
The Committee on Standards in Public Life has also rejected the idea that any independent body should enforce the Ministerial Code, arguing that, "The issuing of sanctions must be a decision solely for the Prime Minister. To create a situation where any independent regulator of the Ministerial Code would effectively have the power to fire a minister would be unconstitutional."
Standards in Public Life and the Ministerial Code discussed by MPs
On Tuesday 7 June, MPs debated standards in public life. This was an Opposition Day debate on a motion determined by the Labour Party.
During the debate, MPs discussed recent changes to the Ministerial Code, as well as the recommendations of a report by the Committee on Standards in Public Life, 'Upholding Standards in Public Life', published in November 2021.
Watch the debate back: https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/396f4020-be34-46b4-9cb4-d850fa2e5a03?in=12:33:12
Read a transcript of the debate: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2022-06-07/debates/1382840C-48FC-424E-BBB3-E44AD609ACBA/StandardsInPublicLife
Opposition Days are days allocated in the House of Commons for the discussion of subjects chosen by the opposition (non-government) parties. There are 20 allocated Opposition Days in each session (parliamentary year).
Find out more about Opposition Days: https://www.parliament.uk/site-information/glossary/opposition-days
MPs to hear from Prime Minister's adviser on ministerial interests
On Tuesday 14 June, MPs on the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee will take evidence from the Prime Minister’s Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests, Lord Geidt.
It is expected the session will cover:
- Recent updates to the Ministerial Code
- The powers of the Independent Adviser
- The contents of the Independent Adviser’s recent Annual Report
Find out more about the session: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/327/public-administration-and-constitutional-affairs-committee/news/171363/prime-ministers-adviser-questioned-on-ministerial-code/
Watch the session (from 10am, Tuesday 14 June): https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/b882e230-aa6e-4cb6-9131-eee634a405c6
A transcript of the session will be available to read a few days after it takes place, on the Committee's website: https://committees.parliament.uk/event/13837/formal-meeting-oral-evidence-session/
The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee is a cross-party group of MPs which examines constitutional issues, and the quality and standards of administration provided by Civil Service departments. It's a cross-party committee and is independent of the Government.
Find out more on their website: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/327/public-administration-and-constitutional-affairs-committee/
You can get updates on their work by following the Committee on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CommonsPACAC
WH debate on the Ministerial Code
On Tuesday 29 November, MPs debated the Ministerial Code, which sets out the standards of conduct expected of ministers and how they discharge their duties.
This was a Westminster Hall debate, led by Chris Bryant MP.
What are Westminster Hall debates?
Westminster Hall is the second Chamber of the House of Commons.
Westminster Hall debates give MPs an opportunity to raise local or national issues and receive a response from a government minister. Any MP can take part in a Westminster Hall debate.
Debates in Westminster Hall take place on ‘general debate' motions expressed in neutral terms. These motions are worded ‘That this House has considered [a specific matter]'.
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