Ministerial Code

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:35 pm on 26th April 2021.

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Photo of Rachel Reeves Rachel Reeves Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster 3:35 pm, 26th April 2021

Mr Speaker:

“There must be no bullying and no harassment;
no leaking…No misuse of taxpayer money and no actual or perceived conflicts of interest.”

Those words are from the Prime Minister’s foreword to the ministerial code. I do not know whether he believed them when he wrote them, but he is certainly trampling all over them today. The Prime Minister is now corrupting the standards of public life expected in high office as he dodges questions and tries to cover up payments for the luxury refurbishment of his flat, feathering his own nest and possibly breaking the law through undeclared loans.

As for leaks, we are seeing the pipes burst with the sewage of allegations. People say that a fish rots from the head down. There is a reason why there is no independent adviser on ministerial standards and why the Government will not publish the long-overdue list of Ministers’ interests. The reason is that the Prime Minister has not wanted them. This is a Prime Minister who would rather the bodies “pile high” than act on scientific advice, but they are not bodies; they are people, they are loved ones and they are deeply missed.

I ask the Minister to engage with the issues at hand. When will the Government publish that register of Ministers’ financial interests? Who paid the invoices for the Prime Minister’s flat refurbishment in the first place and when were those funds repaid? When will the review by the Cabinet Secretary of this fiasco be complete? When will the vacancy for the independent adviser on ministerial standards be filled, and will the Government give that adviser the powers to trigger independent investigations, as Sir Bernard Jenkin has just said and as recommended by Lord Evans?

Finally, will the Minister apologise for the stomach-churning comments that have come out today and announce an urgent public inquiry into the Government’s handling of the pandemic? This is all about conduct, character and decency. Frankly, our country deserves an awful lot better than this.