Boris Johnson is urged by five ex-chiefs of the civil service to improve the code of conduct of ministers, and to impose harsher penalties for those who ‘cheat’ rules following the sleaze accusations

  • Boris Johnson has been urged by every living ex- Cabinet secretary to reform the rules
  • They demand that the PM accepts recommendations from a standards-watchdog
  • Were to see an enhanced ministerial code and more severe punishments

Boris Johnson has been urged by five former chiefs of civil services to improve the ministerial code and increase punishments for breaking the rules in the aftermath of the sleaze investigation.   

Each ex-Cabinet secretary signed a petition requesting that the Prime Minister overhaul the existing standards system in order to make it more difficult for ministers trying to cheat the rules. 

These five men – Lord Butler and Lord Wilson, Lord Turnbull and Lord O’Donnell – stated the ministerial codes’must strictly be enforced’. 

They argued that the existing standards system was not adequate and should be improved. 

Lord O'Donnell

Lord Sedwill

Lord O’Donnell (pictured below) and Lord Sedwill, (pictured right), are two of five ex-chiefs in the civil service who have asked Boris Johnson for a stronger ministerial code.

Every living ex-Cabinet secretary signed a letter calling for the Prime Minister to overhaul the current standards system to make it harder for ministers who try to 'cheat' rules

All ex-Cabinet secretaries signed a letter requesting that the Prime Minister overhaul the existing standards system so it is harder for ministers trying to “cheat” rules

A report by the Committee on Standards in Public Life was published at the beginning of November. It made many recommendations to improve the ministerial rules book. 

These recommendations suggested that the ministerial codes should not be reconstituted’solely to a code on conduct on ethics standards’. They should also include a variety of sanctions that could be imposed by the PM, such as asking for a resignation and asking for an apology. 

The committee also said the Government’s Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests should have their powers increased to allow them to initiate investigations into potential breaches of the code and to determine if a breach has taken place.

Johnson has been urged to follow the recommendations by the five former Cabinet secretaries.           

The Times received a written statement from them regarding the ministerial codes. 

However, a set of rules will not take you far. Only good people can behave well. Bad people might find ways to circumvent any regulations. Therefore, we need to create rules to prevent them from cheating. We must set an example for others, but ultimately all of us need to be trusted. 

The commissioners also stated that there was an urgent need to establish key standard bodies, including the Commissioner of Public Appointments (CAPM) and Independent Adviser for Ministerial Intents (IAMI), on a legal basis. 

After Mr Johnson tried to put an end to sleaze allegations, the letter was sent. A Tory MP blocked an attempt to endorse a standards investigation into Owen Paterson, and also scrap the controversial Government-backed standard reforms.

Christopher Chope, an elderly Conservative Conservative shouted “object!” in the Commons when a motion for overturning the much-criticized attempt to repeal it was presented. The motion could not then be approved.

This motion was to repeal the Leadsom Amendment, which sought to review the MPs Standards investigation process to defer Mr Paterson’s suspension due to breaking lobbying rules. 

This motion sought also to approve a standards report that would have removed Mr Paterson from parliament for 30 jours if he was still an MP.

After the failed attempt of the government to suspend his suspension, he quit his post as Conservative MP for North Shropshire.

Now, this issue will be back on the agenda for debate in the House of Commons today.