Boris Johnson’s Government ‘careless’ over standards, says sleaze watchdog

- Advertisement -

A sleaze watchdog has accused Boris Johnson’s Government of being at least “careless” over its approach to maintaining proper standards.

Lord Evans of Weardale, chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, highlighted “partygate” – the allegations around lockdown-busting gatherings in Downing Street and Whitehall – as one of the rows causing concern.

The former MI5 chief said the public expects MPs and officials to be “living up to the standards that they profess to live up to”.

But it also follows the Greensill lobbying row involving former prime minister David Cameron, the attempts to change Commons standards rules to protect former minister Owen Paterson from immediate suspension, and the saga over the refurbishment of Mr Johnson’s Downing Street flat.

The Prime Minister was forced to apologise to his adviser on ministers’ interests, Lord Geidt, for failing to tell him about WhatsApp exchanges with a Tory donor who helped fund the revamp.

Lord Evans told MPs on the committee: “I think we have seen a whole series of issues over the last few months: the Owen Paterson affair, the attempt to change the rules over standards investigations in the middle of the investigation into Mr Paterson’s actions.

“The questions around the redecoration of Downing Street, in particular the very bad processes that were clearly in place for keeping Lord Geidt properly informed.

“The Greensill affair and now partygate.

Lord Evans of Weardale accused the Government of being at least ‘careless’ over standards (David Mirzoeff/PA)

He said the rows over the Government’s conduct are cutting through to the public.

He added: “You only need, I think, to look at the media reporting, the front pages of the newspapers over the last few months, and, to some extent, of course, the polling, to suggest that people are concerned about these issues.”

He said the public believes that “those people who are representing them in Parliament, those people who are being paid to undertake public roles, should be living up to the standards that they profess to live up to”.

Allegations of lockdown parties and gatherings in Downing Street are being investigated
Allegations of lockdown parties and gatherings in Downing Street are being investigated (Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA)

But Lord Evans backed Ms Gray, whose remit also covers the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, to report back “without fear or favour”.

“I can see the wiring point you refer to,” he said.

“However, given the personality and experience of Sue Gray, I have no doubt that she will follow the facts and come forward with her recommendations without fear or favour.”

Lord Evans said “best practice in the corporate sector” would be to hire an independent legal firm to conduct an investigation into possible rule-breaking, but said he understood why it was “more prudent to have transferred the investigation to somebody who was not around No 10 at the time” rather than have Mr Case review the claims.

Asked about Lord Evans’ accusation of “carelessness”, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The Prime Minister expects – and of course all ministers do abide by the rules of conduct as set out and I think the public expect that and they expect the Government to deliver on their priorities, which is what we are focused on.”

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Latest Stories

- Advertisement -

UK News

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Read the latest free supplements

Read the Town Crier, Le Rocher and a whole host of other subjects like mortgage advice, business, cycling, travel and property.