The Prime Minister’s independent adviser on Ministers’ interests, Sir Laurie Magnus, works within established and robust terms of reference, to provide impartial advice on matters relating to the ministerial code. The powers and status of the role were strengthened in 2022 and Sir Laurie has said he is very comfortable working within his terms of reference.
It is an understatement to observe that the ministerial code has been more honoured in the breach than in the observance during the last few years, and trust in our politics has suffered as a direct result. It has taken the Government two years to respond to the 23rd report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, and they have failed to accept the most important recommendations in it, including increasing the power and transparency of the work of the independent adviser on Ministers’ interests. Why?
We have already reformed the role of the independent adviser. It is now the case that the independent adviser can initiate investigations with the presumption that the Prime Minister will approve them. That is the appropriate balance, but we have to respect that the Prime Minister must be the ultimate upholder of the ministerial code, because it is an important principle of our parliamentary democracy that the Prime Minister is able to appoint whomever he chooses to ministerial posts.