Press release 15th Jun 2022

Lord Geidt resignation leaves gaping hole in oversight of government standards

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June 15, 2022 - Responding to the resignation of Lord Geidt, the Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests, Daniel Bruce, Chief Executive of Transparency International UK, said

 

“What more evidence do we need that the standards regime for overseeing conduct at the heart of government is broken? Lord Geidt’s departure comes just a week after the Prime Minister’s Anti-Corruption Champion also quit. This is the second adviser on the Ministerial Code to have resigned in less than two years.  This latest development leaves a gaping hole in the oversight of the behaviour of the highest post holders in the land.  We repeat our urgent calls for an overhaul of the rules upholding standards in public life to restore public trust in politics.”

 

Transparency International UK is recommending a series of changes across three areas to restore integrity in public life:

 

Restraint and self-regulation can no longer be relied upon as a means of reinforcing or upholding ethical conduct. Government standards should be raised and enforced by:

  • Putting the Ministerial Code on a statutory footing to prevent it from being discarded or disregarded by the Prime Minister of the day. 
  • Making the Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests truly independent, with the ability to initiate investigations and recommend sanctions without the Prime Minister’s permission.
  • Developing an alternative avenue for redress when the Prime Minister is not enforcing their own rules.
  • Greater transparency over the operation of government through better compliance with Freedom of Information requests, and more timely and meaningful disclosures about ministers’ engagements with outside interests, as recommended by the CSPL and the Boardman Review.
  • Creating a new, clear statutory offence for corruption in public life, similar to that proposed by the Law Commission, to ensure those who commit serious abuses of power for private gain can be held criminally accountable.
  • The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACoBA) should be abolished and replaced with a statutory body responsible for prevent abuse of the revolving door between the public and private sector.

 

Money is openly solicited in return for political access and potentially influence. This has undoubtedly secured positions of public office and titles of recognition, and exposes our democracy to manipulation by outside interests. The corrosive influence of big money should be taken out of our politics by:

  • Capping spending and donations in line with recommendations by the Committee on Standards in Public Life.
  • Tightening the rules to ensure UK companies can only make donations that are from genuine operating profits to prevent money of unknown provenance entering our political finance system.

 

Recent political scandals have led the public to question the behaviour and standards of their elected representatives. Rogue conduct in Parliament should be prevented by:

  • Tightening the ban on paid lobbying by Parliamentarians, as per the Committee on Standards’ recommendations, with the rules robustly enforced to avoid the perception - or reality - that those in public office are acting on behalf of outside private interests.
  • Stricter rules on who can fund Parliamentarians’ overseas visits. Trips that are sponsored either directly or indirectly by corrupt and repressive regimes may present the perception or reality that parliamentarians’ judgement and actions are influenced by the intent of their hosts. 

 

Notes to editors:

Transparency International UK’s full list of recommendations to restore integrity in public life can be found here.