The failure to correctly investigate claims against ministers dangers destructive public self-confidence, Boris Johnson’s former independent adviser on the ministerial code has actually stated.
Sir Alex Allan stated there was now a case for giving his successors greater powers to initiate their own queries into problems against members of the government.
His remarks come after criticisms of the ministerial code system, which can just start a questions on the say-so of the prime minister.
Johnson has overlooked demands for inquiries into a number of cabinet ministers. He refused to introduce an inquiry into the housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, who acted unlawfully by granting preparation permission for a ₤ 1bn property scheme two weeks prior to the developer Richard Desmond contributed ₤ 12,000 to the Conservatives; the preparation choice conserved the developer ₤ 45m.
Allan gave up the post last year after Johnson overruled his finding that the home secretary, Priti Patel, had actually bullied civil servants in breach of the ministerial code.
Appearing before the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Allan acknowledged that eventually it was for a prime minister to choose who they desired in their federal government. However, he stated he thought there was now a case for introducing a “greater component of self-reliance” into the examination of problems.
Allan– who was not asked about specific cases– stated currently the consultant could just mount an inquiry if they were asked to do so by the prime minister.
” I believe really there is a case now for providing the independent consultant the role of initiating examinations,” he said. “The issue really now is whether the procedure is in fact harmful to the perception of whether ministers do or don’t stick to the code.
” There have been events which prima facie appear to involve a breach of the code however which haven’t been described the independent adviser. It is completely possible that the accusations weren’t supported by the truths. However the method the allegations have been dismissed I believe has raised questions about the operation of the system and about the confidence that the general public can have in the impact and efficiency of the code.
” To that level, I do see a case for introducing a higher aspect of self-reliance. It would likewise clean up the anomaly where there were accusations versus the prime minister, him or herself, which is something we have actually simply seen in Scotland.”
He added: “If the prime minister feels the circumstances don’t warrant a ministerial resignation he may however feel under pressure to state what happened wasn’t a breach of the code since he doesn’t believe the minister needs to resign. I think it would assist if there were a clear variety of actions that could be taken following a breach.”
Allan was backed by Sir Philip Mawer, his predecessor as independent adviser. “There is always a temptation for new administrations or prime ministers who are particularly strong in their position to think, ‘What I say goes,'” Mawer told the committee.
” It is a temptation in the method of all prime ministers and one that is best withstood.”