Special Advisers: Code of Conduct

Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons on 11th June 2020.

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Photo of Margaret Ferrier Margaret Ferrier Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Manufacturing)

What recent assessment he has made of the compliance of Government special advisers with the code of conduct for special advisers.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

What recent assessment he has made of the compliance of Government special advisers with the code of conduct for special advisers.

Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Fair Work and Employment)

What recent assessment he has made of the compliance of Government special advisers with the code of conduct for special advisers.

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Assistant Whip, Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

Paragraph 9 of the code of conduct for special advisers states:

“The responsibility for the management and conduct of special advisers, including discipline, rests with the Minister who made the appointment.”

It is therefore for each appointing Minister to ensure that their special advisers operate within the terms of the code of conduct.

Photo of Margaret Ferrier Margaret Ferrier Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Manufacturing)

I hope you had a pleasant birthday yesterday, Mr Speaker.

Public health experts have voiced concerns that Dominic Cummings did undermine public trust in lockdown rules, going against the principle of integrity that is in the code of conduct. Will the Cabinet Office conduct an investigation into potential breaches of the code of conduct by Mr Cummings, or have Ministers yet again decided that they have had enough of experts?

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Assistant Whip, Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

I am not sure whether the hon. Lady listened to the answer I gave, which was that the responsibility for those decisions rests with the appointing Minister. In this case, that is of course the Prime Minister, who has accepted Mr Cummings’s explanations and has defended that at this Dispatch Box and elsewhere. There is little further to add to that. Of course, if it helps you, Mr Speaker, I can also add that Durham constabulary has said that there is nothing further to do, and the Cabinet Secretary has responded to Opposition Members, including the SNP party leader in this place, to say he is also satisfied.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

The Minister referred to the code of conduct for special advisers in her earlier answer. Paragraph 14 states:

“advisers must not take public part in political controversy”,

including speeches to the press. The Prime Minister says that, somehow, Cummings did not offer his resignation, and nor did the Prime Minister think about asking him. What does the Cabinet Minister think would be adequate sanctions for Dominic Cummings to face for breaking the code of conduct?

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Assistant Whip, Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

I have answered that question. It is extraordinary that we have heard four questions in a row from the Scottish nationalist party, who have little more to say on the subject of how, as a country, we should emerge from coronavirus and how we should continue, as my right hon. Friend the Paymaster General explained, leading people and asking them to follow the remaining stages of the plans, so that we can keep safe and move the country on. Have they nothing better to say?

Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Fair Work and Employment)

Thank you, Mr Speaker. First, it is the Scottish National party—I would hope the Minister would at least get the political party correct. We know that Mr Cummings is in contempt of Parliament for refusing to appear before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster also said previously that Mr David Frost should be able to appear before Committees, but he could not guarantee it. Is it okay for this country to be run by unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats?

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Assistant Whip, Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

Allow me to let the hon. Gentleman into a secret: the country is not run that way; the country is run by Ministers who are accountable at this Dispatch Box. I do, of course, accept that Scotland runs its affairs in respect of what is devolved to it, as does Wales and Northern Ireland. However, we have a huge opportunity here to be working together not only for the good of the Scottish people or people anywhere else in the country, but together as a United Kingdom. I am so sorry that we have not seen a better attempt to do that from the hon. Gentleman and his team this morning. They are focused on the past, not the future.