Boris Johnson’s ethics adviser has said he expects to be given “considerably greater” authority, independence and power as a result of the spat over the prime minister’s flat refurbishment.
The comments came in response to a letter from a parliamentary watchdog committee asking Christopher Geidt whether he felt he should be allowed to launch his own inquiries into allegations of ministerial wrongdoing.
Lord Geidt’s response appears to indicate that he is pushing for this power. At present he can propose an investigation but can only proceed if requested to do so by the prime minister.
Mr Johnson was forced to apologise last week after it emerged that he failed to provide Geidt with details of all his communications with the Tory donor who funded the £142,000 refit of his flat above 11 Downing Street.
In a letter to the House of Commons Public Administration Committee, released today, the peer said that the incident showed that “insufficient care” was being granted by the government to him in his role as independent adviser.
He told the committee’s chair, Tory MP William Wragg: “The episode shook my confidence precisely because potential and real failures of process occurred in more than one part of the apparatus of government.
“These failures were not, in my view, due to a lack of investigatory powers, but rather they showed insufficient care for the role of independent adviser.”
Writing to Lord Geidt to offer a “humble and sincere apology” last month, Mr Johnson promised that he would be provided with more support from officials and “the highest standards of support and attention when pursuing your work”.
Geidt told Mr Wragg in today’s letter that as a result “I would expect by the time of my next annual report in April to be able to describe the role of independent adviser in terms of considerably greater authority, independence and effect, consistent with the ambitions for the office that the prime minister has set out.”
The independent Committee on Standards in Public Life has recommended new powers for the independent adviser to initiate inquiries without the need for the PM’s instruction.
Asked for his views on this recommendation, Lord Geidt told Mr Wragg: “As set out in the exchange of letters with the prime minister. I will also consider other aspects, both of the remit of the appointment and of the ministerial code itself, as recommended in various recent reports – including the report... by the Committee on Standards in Public Life.”
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