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Chancellor Admits Government Must "Do Better" As Tory Sleaze Row Rages On

4 min read

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has admitted that the government knows it needs to "do better" following mounting "sleaze" allegations that led Boris Johnson to insist the UK is "not a corrupt country" at COP26.

"I think for us as a government, it's fair to say that we need to do better than we did last week and we know that," Sunak told Sky News

Calculations by the Guardian show that the former Attorney General Sir Geoffrey Cox has earned £6million as a lawyer on top of his Commons salary. He is already under fire for voting remotely from the British Virgin Islands earlier this year while working on behalf of its government. According to The Mirror, he was working on a legal contract in Mauritius when the revelations around Cox's lucrative legal work broke this week.  

The Cox scandal follows fallout from Downing Street’s controversial plan to try and overhaul the misconduct system after a report found the ex-Cabinet minister Owen Paterson broke the rules on lobbying.

Earlier this morning business minister Paul Scully agreed the government finds itself in a “regrettable” situation and admitted the “optics” were not good on the wider debate about MP's second jobs.

“I can see exactly how it looks, and it's really regrettable that that we've got to this situation," Scully told Sky News. 

“Politicians from all sides that I meet are in it for the right reasons – they want to make a positive difference to their residents in their constituencies and indeed the country as a whole.”

But Scully felt the government should not have conflated the Paterson case with trying to amend the standards procedures, which led to accusations the Prime Minister was trying to bend the rules to protect one of his own MPs.

Scully said he was "not going to defend Geoffrey, or say anything" when asked how he viewed the Cox case. "That's up to Geoffrey, it is between him and his voters,” he added. 

During a speech on final talks at the COP26 summit in Glasgow last night, Johnson faced awkward questions around issues raised in the last week, forcing him to defend the UK's reputation in front of a global audience. 

“I genuinely believe that the UK is not remotely a corrupt country, nor do I believe that our institutions are corrupt," the prime minister insisted. 

“We have a very, very tough system of parliamentary democracy and scrutiny, not least by the media.

“Sadly, MPs have broken the rules in the past, and may be guilty of breaking the rules today. What I want to see is them facing appropriate sanctions.”

It comes after Lord Evans, Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said last week the UK “could slip into being a corrupt country”.

But the former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt suggested the headlines in recent days proves the very opposite, and that power is being held to account.

“It might sound very strange for a prime minister when the newspapers are full of stories about people voting in Parliament remotely from the Caribbean that he stands up and says Britain is not corrupt,” he told BBC Radio 4.

“He is actually right to say that, and the reason is because in this country we have people like you [the media] who are more effective at holding politicians like me to account than pretty much anywhere else in the world.”

He added:  “It's the fact that we talk about these issues, which may cause mild embarrassment of course when people from other countries look at the headlines, actually demonstrates curiously the health of our democracy.”

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