Labor urges vote on ‘despot’ Boris Johnson’s plan to water down Ministers’ Bill

Deputy party leader Angela Rayner accused the Prime Minister of behaving like a “tin bubble despot” with the revisions announced on Friday

Labor will push for a vote on Boris Johnson’s decision to change the Ministers’ Code, to its critics saying the rules for members of the front bench in government will be “watered down”.

Deputy party leader Angela Rayner accused the Prime Minister of behaving like a “tin bubble despot” with the revisions announced on Friday.

Leader Sir Keir Starmer and his team plan to use an Opposition Day debate, when Parliament returns from its week-long recess to mark the Queen’s platinum jubilee, to encourage Conservative MPs to vote against Mr Johnson’s changes and rebel .

The Prime Minister’s changes mean that ministers will not automatically lose their jobs for breaking ministerial law, as has traditionally been the case.

A government policy statement said it was “disproportionate” to expect ministers to resign or be sacked for “minor” breaches of the code.

The update gives the prime minister the ability to order a lesser sanction, such as “a form of public apology, remedial action or the suspension of the minister’s salary for a period of time”.

The prime minister was branded a “tin can despot”.


Zuma Press/PA Images)

Mr Johnson has lobbied for his independent adviser on the Code, Lord Geidt, to launch his own inquiries into possible violations.

According to the peer’s revised terms of reference, there will be an “enhanced process” allowing him to launch investigations, but he will still need the Prime Minister’s approval before proceeding.

Ms Rayner said the Prime Minister’s new foreword to the Code had removed “all references to integrity, objectivity, accountability, transparency, honesty and leadership in the public interest”.

The changes come days after senior civil servant Sue Gray’s final report on lockdown parties at Downing Street prompted renewed calls for Mr Johnson to step down.

The Tory leader is under investigation by the Commons Privileges Committee for misleading Parliament with his regular assurances that Covid rules have been respected during lockdown in England, number 10.

At its next Opposition Day debate, Labor will ask MPs to enshrine a commitment for ministers who commit serious breaches of the Ministerial Code to resign.

It comes after the Home Secretary was allowed to remain in office despite being found to have been bullying Home Office staff.

Mr Johnson stood by Priti Patel in a move that saw Lord Geidt’s predecessor, Sir Alex Allen, resign in November 2020.

Labor aims to put Tories in an awkward position after a similar vote on the government’s attempt to tear up Commons standards rules – to prevent former Cabinet Secretary Owen Paterson from being suspended for lobbying – with allegations of the Filth against Mr Johnson ‘s government ended .

Ms Rayner said: “Boris Johnson is acting like a tinpot despot and trampling on every principle of public life.

“Many decent Conservative MPs are deeply uncomfortable with Johnson’s behavior and now have a chance to stop his sinister attempts to water down standards and integrity in our democracy.

“Gravity breaches of the Ministerial Code must lead to resignation, whether it is intentionally misleading Parliament, staff bullying, bribery or sexual assault.

“You just can’t trust this Prime Minister to uphold the standards of government while his behavior continues to deteriorate and he greenlights corruption.”

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