June 16, 2022

Downing Street publishes resignation letter from PM’s ethics adviser Lord Geidt

Boris Johnson will “carefully consider” whether to hire a new ethics adviser after Lord Geidt became the second to quit the role – saying he was put in an “impossible and odious position”.

Downing Street said it was a “vitally important” role but when asked whether a new adviser was being sought, Mr Johnson’s spokesman said Lord Geidt had raised a number of issues about it.

He said Mr Johnson wanted to “carefully consider those and reflect on them” and that a decision had not yet been made about whether the function “relates to a specific individual or not”.

Politics Hub: Lord Geidt ‘had a pretty rough grilling by MPs’, says Raab

Downing Street published Lord Geidt’s resignation letter a day after he decided to step down unexpectedly.

The peer’s departure came after his predecessor Sir Alex Allan resigned in 2020. That was described by Labour as a “badge of shame” for the government.

Lord Geidt admitted this week that he had considered resigning over Mr Johnson’s response to his partygate fine for breaking COVID-19 rules.

More on Boris Johnson

In letters to the prime minister explaining why he was leaving, Lord Geidt admitted he believed “by a very small margin” that it was possible “to continue credibly as independent adviser” after partygate.

The ultimate reason for his departure was a separate issue, apparently relating to potential future decisions on trade tariffs.

In a letter, Lord Geidt said he has been asked this week to offer a view on “measures which risk a deliberate and purposeful breach of the ministerial code”.

“This request has placed me in an impossible and odious position,” he said.

“The idea that a prime minister might to any degree be in the business of deliberately breaching his own code is an affront.”

Lord Geidt said that even an intention to breach the ministerial code deliberately “would be to suspend the provisions of the code to suit a political end”.

He added: “This would make a mockery not only of respect for the code but licence the suspension of its provisions in governing the conduct of Her Majesty’s ministers.

“I can have no part in this.”

Read more:
Lord Geidt and Boris Johnson’s letters in full

Lord Geidt said that because he had been fulfilling an obligation to appear as a witness before a select committee in parliament earlier this week, this was his first opportunity to react and he was therefore resigning with immediate effect.

Mr Johnson said in response that the letter “came as a surprise” after the adviser told him on Monday that he was happy to stay on until the end of the year.

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The PM has said that he was “very, very surprised” to receive a fine after the events of ‘Partygate.’

He said that he had sought Lord Geidt’s advice relating to the Trade Remedies Authority, a body set up to protect UK companies from unfair competition, about the national interest in protecting a “crucial” but unspecified industry.

Mr Johnson said that industry “is protected in other European countries and would suffer material harm if we do not continue to apply such tariffs”.

The prime minister said that in the past such measures had cross-party support.

He added that the tariff decision “would be in line with our domestic law but might be seen to conflict with our obligations under the WTO [World Trade Organisation]”.

Mr Johnson said: “In seeking your advice before any decision was taken, I was looking to ensure that we acted properly with due regard to the ministerial code.”

The prime minister thanked Lord Geidt for his service and said he had carried out his work “under very difficult circumstances”.

His exit follows the departure of Sir Alex and the departure of the prime minister’s anti-corruption champion, John Penrose, last week.

The Liberal Democrats called for an urgent update on what the prime minister is planning and why it would be a breach of the ministerial code.

The party’s chief whip, Wendy Chamberlain, said: “It looks like Boris Johnson is planning to break his own rules yet again.

“The prime minister now needs to come to Parliament and answer questions about these extremely serious allegations.”

Fleur Anderson, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, said: “To lose one ethics adviser was really an embarrassment but to lose two in two years, just days after the prime minister’s own anti-corruption tsar walked out on him, well it is becoming a bit of a pattern.

“It is a pattern of degrading the principles of our democracy.

“The prime minister has now driven out both of his hand-picked ethics advisers to resign in despair in two years, it is a badge of shame for this government.”

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