Rishi Sunak Accused Of “Breaking Promise” Over Failure To Hire New Ethics Adviser
Rishi Sunak said he would appoint a new ministerial ethics adviser as one of his first jobs as Prime Minister (Alamy)
Exclusive: Labour has accused Rishi Sunak of having “broken his promise” to bring "integrity and accountability" into government over his failure to hire a new adviser on ministerial ethics, despite already facing rows over his Cabinet appointments.
In one of his first acts as Prime Minister, Sunak pledged to replace Lord Geidt, who resigned from the role under Boris Johnson earlier this year. But so far there has been no movement on appointing the position, which involves adjudicating whether ministers have breached the ministerial code.
Downing Street insist that Sunak remains committed to hiring an Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests, but neither No 10 nor the Cabinet Office have offered any timeframe for the recruitment, or information on how far along the process is.
Labour’s deputy leader and Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Angela Rayner has now accused the Prime Minister of breaking his promise over the delay.
“Rishi Sunak said appointing an independent ethics adviser was one of the first things he'd do as Prime Minister, but instead he’s dragged his heels and broken his promise," she told PoliticsHome.
“As the list of serious charges against his own ministers mount, the mask is slipping to reveal that under Rishi Sunak, it is more of the same sleaze and scandal that saw the previous two ethics chiefs walk out.
“Far from setting high standards, this Prime Minister is failing to stop the rot and is letting it fester in his Cabinet due to his appalling judgement."
She added that a Labour government would establish an independent commission to "clean up politics and restore standards in public life".
Sunak is facing mounting questions over his decision to re-appoint Suella Braverman as Home Secretary, less than a week after she was forced out of the role for breaking the ministerial code.
His support for cabinet minister Gavin Williamson, despite accusations of bullying behaviour and a formal investigation into abusive and threatening messages Williamson sent to a former chief whip, has also attracted criticism.
In this summer's first Conservative leadership contest, Sunak pledged to hire a new adviser after Johnson failed to replace Geidt, who stood down over the “Partygate” scandal saying he could “not be party to advising on any potential law-breaking”.
He was the second person to quit the role under Johnson. In November 2020, Alex Allan resigned after the prime minister failed to act on his report that concluded the then-Home Secretary Priti Patel's approach to dealing with civil servants "amounted to behaviour that can be described as bullying”.
“I definitely will reappoint an independent ethics adviser and it’ll be one of the first things I’ll do,” Sunak told LBC in July, adding he may even look to get Geidt back as he “did a good job in the first place”.
Liz Truss subsequently declined to replace Geidt during her brief stint in No 10.
But a fortnight after replacing Truss, Sunak does not appear to have made headway on appointing an ethics adviser and Downing Street does not have a specific date for when they expect the role to be filled.
"It is certainly something that is already taking place and it is something that the Prime Minister wants to do as quickly as possible," the Prime Minister's spokesperson said.
“It’s an important role to consider carefully but we want to do it at pace.”
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe