Ministers’ Personal and Lifestyle Costs: Vulnerability to Outside Influence

Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons on 13th January 2022.

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Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

If he will take steps to reassure the public that Cabinet Ministers’ personal and lifestyle costs are not being funded by donors and therefore vulnerable to outside influence.

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis Paymaster General

All Ministers are subject to the ministerial code, which requires Ministers to ensure that no conflict arises, or could arise, between their public duties and their private interests, financial or otherwise.

Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

It was so good to hear the Paymaster General praising civil servants, so could he please explain why the Foreign Secretary overruled civil servants’ advice and went to a £3,000 lunch in a private members’ club owned by a Tory donor, and he calls that abiding by the code? Will the Paymaster General immediately include that in the investigation being undertaken into the other boozy parties in No. 10 Downing Street?

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis Paymaster General

It is absolutely ridiculous to characterise the matter in the way that the hon. Lady does. The reality of the matter is that the Labour party engages in trade union entertainment on every possible occasion. There is no conflict of interest in the matter she describes. Indeed, all the matters that are brought to the attention of the relevant authorities are properly dealt with.

Photo of Fleur Anderson Fleur Anderson Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

It would seem to be quite a hard life being a Prime Minister at the moment. In WhatsApp messages to Lord Brownlow that surfaced last week, the Prime Minister described his No. 11 flat as a “bit of a tip” that is desperately in need of a lick of paint, some gold wallpaper and the offices of a leading fashion designer. In return for expediting this, the Prime Minister assured Lord Brownlow that he would take a look at his idea for a great exhibition festival. So we have a new term in British politics: wallpaper for access. Can the Minister give a serious explanation as to why this exchange with Lord Brownlow was not passed on to the independent adviser on ministerial interests but was passed on to the Electoral Commission for its investigation? Out of interest, does he have the Prime Minister’s new number?

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis Paymaster General

As set out in the letter, Lord Geidt has not changed his assessment that no conflict of interest arose from the support provided by Lord Brownlow. The Prime Minister correctly declared an interest, as required under the ministerial code, and Lord Geidt now considers the matter closed.