Ministerial Code

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:19 pm on 15th November 2005.

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Photo of Jim Murphy Jim Murphy Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Cabinet Office) 8:19 pm, 15th November 2005

I shall write to the hon. Lady. Time does not permit me to go through all seven. [Interruption.] She holds up a copy of the ministerial code—I am sorry to say that I cannot read it from here.

Our approach to such matters is in stark contrast to the evidence that Sir John Major presented to the Public Administration Committee. He said that, when breaches of the ministerial code were alleged, he

"preferred to leave a large glass of brandy and a pistol in a darkened room for the Minister to make up their mind."

We do not operate in that way.

The Government made it clear in our response to the ninth report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life and the recommendation for an independent adviser on ministerial interests that permanent secretaries are best placed to understand Departments' work and advise Ministers on handling potential conflicts of interest. We have agreed to appoint an independent adviser on ministerial interests to provide private advice to Ministers and permanent secretaries, especially about more complicated cases. That will be in addition to the wide range of advice that is already available. Whoever is appointed to that office will need to understand how government and Parliament work and have the necessary expertise. As the amendment states, we will make an announcement on the matter shortly.

However, I emphasise that the Government continue to believe that permanent secretaries are best placed to understand Departments' work and advise Ministers on handling potential conflicts of interest. No external adviser could be expected to match permanent secretaries' understanding in terms of knowledge of their Departments and the potential for conflict.