Government delays reform to ministerial adviser Sleaze: MP standards chief

  • Boris Johnson has pledged to give his sleazy adviser more powers by “the end of March at the latest”.
  • Now the government is delaying reform of Lord Geidt’s role until April.
  • The chairman of the House of Commons standards committee says there needs to be a “substantive change”.

New powers for the independent adviser on ministers’ standards promised by Boris Johnson to be in effect “by the end of March at the latest” are to be delayed until April, the government has announced.

Johnson pledged to bolster Lord Geidt’s role in letters exchanged in December and published in January, after it emerged that an investigation by Geidt into the refurbishment of the Downing Street flat had been blocked by the inability of the government to provide him with all the relevant information.

Geidt strongly criticized the failings, prompting a “humble and heartfelt apology” from the Prime Minister.

Johnson also pledged to provide Geidt with dedicated support from managers and “the highest standards of support and care while continuing your work”, promising that these changes would be “in place to your satisfaction. ‘by the end of March at the latest”.

Geidt welcomed the news, saying he “would expect, by my next annual report in April, to be able to describe the independent adviser’s role in terms of authority, independence and impact considerably increased, in accordance with the ambitions of the office which you left.”

However, the government is now using Geidt’s deadline for its April annual report to justify a delay in delivering the new powers.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson told Insider: “Work to support the independent adviser role is ongoing. We will provide an update in due course.”

They pointed to Geidt’s letter referencing his annual report in April and suggested constructive discussions were underway.

The chairman of the House of Commons standards committee criticized the government’s delay.

Chris Bryant, a Labor MP, said the government was trying to ‘quibble and dither’ despite the fact that ‘reform is long overdue’.

Bryant told Insider: “We were promised substantial change by the end of March. And that’s what the government should be delivering.

“It’s bad enough to have one rule for them and another for us, but you can’t have one timescale for them and another for us.

“I bet they won’t want to do what Geidt wants.”

Separately, the Independent Committee on Standards in Public Life, chaired by Jonathan Evans, has recommended that the adviser be able to open inquiries into breaches of the ministerial code himself.

Despite Geidt’s request that the December correspondence be published “in the next few days”, it took until the House of Commons returned from its Christmas recess for the letters to be published by Downing Street. Geidt’s role is formally unrelated to the House of Commons, being a Prime Minister’s appointment.

The Commons ends its Easter recess on Friday, meaning Downing Street could delay publication of the annual report until April 19.

Geidt declined to comment.

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