Downing Street Confirms Ethics Adviser Role May Be Scrapped
Lord Geidt stepped down from his role this week after saying the Prime Minister put him in an "odious" position (Alamy)
Number 10 has confirmed the role of ethics adviser to the Prime Minister may be scrapped in its current form after Lord Geidt resigned from the role on Wednesday over being put in an "impossible and odious position".
Geidt was the second person to quit the role advising on ministerial interests under Boris Johnson’s tenure.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said following Geidt's resignation, they may not appoint a replacement to the same position. Instead they intend to revisit the role's remit in light of criticism that Geidt lacked independence or the power to hold Cabinet ministers to account.
Johnson's spokesperson said it was “right to take stock of the issues” and that the Prime Minister “will take advice from advisers within Number 10 and others with expertise in this area”.
“It may be that the Prime Minister decides to make a like-for-like replacement, or it might be that we set up a different body that undertakes the same functions," they added.
“The Prime Minister thinks it is right to now take the time to reflect on those issues, which are well-highlighted.”
In an explosive resignation letter Geidt claimed he was forced to stand down after being put in an "impossible and odious position" having been asked to consider a “deliberate and purposeful breach” of the ministerial code.
Johnson has insisted he was seeking advice on the matter “before any decision was taken” to ensure he acted in accordance with the ministerial code, and Geidt’s decision had come as a “surprise”.
Geidt first announced his resignation on Wednesday, having expressed concerns in recent weeks about Johnson’s opinion that he had not broken the ministerial code despite being handed a fixed penalty notice by the Metropolitan Police in relation to the so-called “partygate” saga.
In his letter the peer said it was an “affront” that any Prime Minister would consider “deliberately breaching his own code” to any degree.
“This would make a mockery not only of respect for the code but licence the suspension of its provisions in governing the conduct of Her Majesty's ministers,” Geidt added.
“I can have no part in this."
He took over the role in April 2021 after his predecessor Sir Alex Allan quit over Johnson's refusal to accept his finding that Home Secretary Priti Patel had bullied civil servants.
Amid concerns that a second adviser on ministerial interests has stood down under his watch, as well as the UK’s anti-corruption tsar John Penrose who quit last week, Downing Street said upholding high ethical standards is still a priority for Johnson.
“The Prime Minister believes it's right to consider some of the issues that have been raised by both Lord Geidt and PACAC (the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee),” his spokesperson said.
“It's right to consider those issues and reflect on them before taking a decision on how best to fulfil the PM's commitment to ensure rigorous oversight of ministerial interest.
“To be clear, we're fully committed to making sure all ministers – including the PM – are held accountable, maintaining the highest possible standards of behaviour.”
Johnson's spokesperson did not set out a timeline for when the process of replacing Geidt will take place, but said in the meantime there is still the propriety and ethics team in the Cabinet Office and other mechanisms for upholding the ministerial code.
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