Today's daily politics briefing

Queen’s ex-private secretary named Boris Johnson’s new standards adviser amid sleaze scandal

New watchdog will not have power to initiate investigations or decide sanctions on erring ministers

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Wednesday 28 April 2021 13:36

The Queen’s former private secretary Lord Geidt has been appointed Boris Johnson’s independent adviser on ministers’ interests, five months after predecessor Sir Alex Allan walked out when the prime minister overruled his bullying findings against Priti Patel.

Downing Street said the crossbench peer’s first priority will be to conduct a review of the funding of the controversial refurbishment of Mr Johnson’s flat at 11 Downing Street and advise the prime minister on whether he should register any interests as a result.

Lord Geidt will also be responsible for publishing the twice-yearly register of ministers’ interests, which has been delayed four months beyond it scheduled release date in December.

But revised terms of reference for Lord Geidt’s post published today make clear that Mr Johnson has resisted pressure to give the adviser the power to launch investigations into ministers’ behaviour on his own initiative.

And the prime minister will retain his power to act as judge and jury on any sanction against ministers, including whether they should lose their jobs if the adviser finds they have transgressed.

The terms of reference state that if new adviser believes an allegation about a breach of the Ministers’ Code of Conduct might warrant further investigation, “he will raise the issue confidentially with the prime minister”.

But they do not give Lord Geidt the power to launch a probe without the PM’s blessing.

And they state: “The decision on whether a minister remains in office after an investigation sits with the prime minister, as ‘the ultimate judge of the standards of behaviour expected of a minister and the appropriate consequences of a breach of those standards’.”

The PM “may ask the independent adviser for recommendations about the appropriate sanction where the prime minister judges there to have been a breach of those standards”, the terms of reference state.

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