UK ministers will not automatically lose their jobs for breaking the ministerial code

BORIS Johnson has been accused of watering down the rules for ministers after it was made clear they would not automatically lose their jobs if they broke the ministerial code.

A UK government policy statement said it was ‘disproportionate’ to expect ministers to resign or be sacked for ‘minor’ breaches of code of conduct provisions.

Instead, it has been updated, giving the prime minister the option to order a lesser sanction such as “some form of public apology, corrective action or removal of ministerial salary for a period”.

He previously expected ministers to resign if they were found to have breached the code.

At the same time, Mr Johnson waived permission for his independent adviser on the code, Lord Geidt, to carry out investigations into possible breaches on his own initiative.

Under his revised mandate, there will be an “enhanced process” for him to open inquiries, but he will still need the prime minister’s consent before moving forward.

“Reflecting the Prime Minister’s responsibility for the conduct of the executive, it is important that a role is retained for the Prime Minister in decisions regarding investigations,” the statement said.

The changes come just days after senior civil servant Sue Gray’s final report on the lockdown parties in Downing Street led to fresh calls for Mr Johnson to step down.

The Prime Minister now faces a Commons Privileges Committee investigation into whether he misled Parliament about what happened.

Former Tory MP Adam Tomkins called the changes “corrupt and shameful”.

Professor Tomkins added that the overhaul was ‘a betrayal of everything Conservatives are supposed to believe about our constitutional democracy’.

SNP deputy leader at Westminster Kirsten Oswald said the Prime Minister’s decision was “the actions of a guilty man”, adding that it showed “a Prime Minister caught breaking the lockdown law and now desperate to save his own skin”.

She said: ‘The antics of this corrupt Prime Minister and his squalid Government in Westminster continue, and they have now doubled down in a pathetic attempt to save the career of a man who breaks the law. Their arrogance and sense of entitlement know no bounds.

“If the prime minister, any prime minister, breaks the law or the cabinet code, he has to go – no ifs, no buts. It is outrageous that Boris Johnson was able to keep his job shamelessly and that he is now rewriting the ministerial code and blocking attempts at independent investigations into his conduct – the very things that exist to control him.

“These are actions worthy of a phony dictator.”

Ms Oswald added: ‘Never before have we seen a government so mired in foolishness and scandal, which for so long prevented them from acting on a cost of living crisis they themselves created .

“It’s no longer just about the outrageous partygate scandal or the leadership of the Conservative Party, this decision strikes at the very heart of our democracy and will threaten the Prime Minister’s ability to control for years to come.”

Labor said Mr Johnson had removed all references to ‘integrity, objectivity, accountability, transparency, honesty and leadership in the public interest’ from his own foreword to the code to “save his own skin”.

Deputy party leader Angela Rayner said: ‘This Prime Minister is degrading and debasing the principles of public life before our very eyes.

“In a week when Boris Johnson’s lies in Parliament over breaking industrial rules at the heart of government have finally come to light, he is expected to tender his resignation but instead waters down the rules to save his own skin.

“Once again Boris Johnson has demonstrated that he is not serious about his promise to deal with the scandal and foolishness that engulfs his government or the frequent and flagrant breaches of standards and breaches of rules that have took place under his supervision.

Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said: ‘This is an appalling attempt by Boris Johnson to rig the rules to get out of trouble.

“The Prime Minister should not be allowed to decide his own sentence – without any accountability.

“That makes him judge and jury in his own case.

“If the Privileges Committee finds that Boris Johnson has lied to Parliament, Tory MPs will surely have no choice but to sack him.”

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