Dowden insists Government is ‘upholding high standards of transparency’

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Oliver Dowden has dodged questions on whether any ministers are yet to submit declarations of interest after it was revealed Nadhim Zahawi submitted his only a few weeks ago.

The Cabinet Office minister insisted the Government is “upholding high standards of transparency” when cross-questioned by Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner in the Commons.

Ms Rayner told MPs Sir Laurie Magnus, the ethics adviser, revealed in his letter to the Prime Minister that former Tory party chairman Mr Zahawi only submitted his declaration of interest in the last two weeks.

“Some three months after his appointment and whilst in the eye of the storm”, she noted.

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Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner asked how many ministers are yet to submit their declarations (James Manning/PA)

Mr Dowden said: “I can assure the right honourable lady that we are upholding high standards of transparency. The ministerial code requires such declarations to be made. They are policed by the independent adviser.”

He added: “Where there are failures, action is taken immediately, and we saw that from the Prime Minister this weekend.”

Mr Dowden was also asked about the investigation into Richard Sharp’s appointment as BBC chairman, with an inquiry launched amid claims he helped then-prime minister Boris Johnson secure a loan facility of up to £800,000 shortly before being appointed to the post.

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Shadow Cabinet Office minister Fleur Anderson asked what would be done to tackle ‘chumocracy around the Prime Minister’  (Yui Mok/PA)

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Fleur Anderson said: “I, like many others, was surprised to see that it took the head of the investigation into Richard Sharp’s appointment at the BBC a week to realise a conflict of interest and recuse himself from the role.

“What will the minister do to tackle this chumocracy around the Prime Minister? Isn’t it time he adopted our proposal for an independent integrity and ethics commission to finally restore the accountability and professionalism that they promised?”

Mr Dowden replied: “I would say that in the respect of the appointment to which she refers, I was involved with this as the secretary of state. We had clear and transparent process, we had independent selectors choosing that person, and indeed it was looked into by the select committee who found that it was an excellent appointment.

“The Government stands by that appointment and indeed Richard Sharp as the chairman of the BBC, who is doing an excellent job.”

Public appointments commissioner William Shawcross recused himself from the investigation into Mr Sharp’s appointment as BBC chairman because he had met Mr Sharp in the past.

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