Cameron pledges to end PM's power over code of conduct

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David Cameron will promise today that if he becomes Prime Minister he will surrender the power Tony Blair now has to be the sole judge of whether a minister has broken the government's code of conduct.

Mr Cameron has put together a series of ideas for cleaning up public life, including fewer MPs, tighter limits on the numbers of paid and unpaid government ministers, and a statutory limit on the number of special advisers, whose number leapt from 38 to 70 when Labour came to power.

He also wants to reduce what he calls the "Punch and Judy" aspect of the weekly sessions when the Prime Minister takes questions in the Commons.

Today, the Tory leader will present his proposals in the form of a letter to the former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke, who is heading Mr Cameron's Democracy Task Force - one of several groups working on an overhaul of Tory policies.

"Our society is becoming less hierarchical and less deferential," Mr Cameron said. "There is a backlash against top-down, dictatorial government and a desire for greater openness, probity and accountability in the institutions that regulate and control our lives."

As a curtain-raiser for Mr Cameron's proposals, one of his shadow ministers let loose a highly personal attack on Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and other leading Labour politicians yesterday, accusing them of dragging down standards in public life and creating a "culture of fear" in the civil service.

The vehemence of the attack by the shadow cabinet's lead attack dog, Chris Grayling, surprised some observers, given that Mr Cameron stated wish to end 'Punch and Judy' politics.

Mr Grayling accused Tony Blair of breaking his own Ministerial Code by allowing Cherie Blair to make money from being the Prime Minister's wife.

He claimed that the honours system had been "brought into disrepute" by the peerage offered to the millionaire businessman, Paul Drayson, a major donor to Labour Party funds, and his subsequent appointment as a defence minister.