Ministerial code: five who did resign over breach accusations

Boris Johnson has backed Priti Patel – but in the past there have been notable departures

Boris Johnson’s adviser on the ministerial code has resigned after the prime minister backed the home secretary, Priti Patel, despite an inquiry finding evidence that she had bullied civil servants.

The ministerial code she was accused of breaking is a set of rules and principles that outlines the standards of conduct for government ministers. The code should be read alongside the “overarching duty” of ministers to comply with the law and to abide by the seven principles of public life – ethical standards for all holders of public office outlined in the 1995 Nolan report.

In the past there have been notable resignations by ministers who have been accused of breaching the code. Here are five of the most prominent.

David Blunkett

Blunkett quit as work and pensions secretary in 2005, saying he was “deeply sorry” for the embarrassment he had caused the then prime minister, Tony Blair.

He had broken the ministerial code of conduct over paid work he took while out of the cabinet. Blunkett was a director of DNA Bioscience before the election in May that year, and took the job without consulting an independent committee.

He was previously asked to step down as home secretary in 2004 over claims his office had fast-tracked a visa application for his former lover’s nanny.

Liam Fox

Fox resigned as defence secretary in 2011 over his working relationship with his friend Adam Werritty. At the time of his departure he was being investigated amid claims he had broken the ministerial code.

In a letter to the prime minister at the time, David Cameron, Fox said he had “mistakenly allowed” personal and professional responsibilities to be “blurred”.

Werritty, a lobbyist, met Fox on 18 foreign trips despite having no official role. He was a former flatmate of the former minister and the best man at his wedding. At meetings with Fox, he handed out business cards suggesting he was his adviser. The Labour party said Fox had not upheld ministerial standards and his departure had been “inevitable”.

Michael Fallon

In 2017, Fallon was forced to quit after allegations of harassment from female journalists. He had been accused of inappropriately touching two journalists and making unsuitable comments to his fellow MP Andrea Leadsom in cabinet meetings.

His departure came after the journalist Jane Merrick informed Downing Street that he had lunged at her and attempted to kiss her after a lunch meeting in 2003.

Following this incident and other scandals, Theresa May wrote a code of conduct that meant ministers could be sacked for bullying, harassment or “inappropriate or discriminating behaviour”.

Fallon resigned on 1 November after admitting that his behaviour towards women had fallen “below the high standards” required.

Priti Patel

This is not the first time Patel has been accused of breaching the ministerial code. She was forced to resign as international development secretary in November 2017 over unauthorised meetings with Israeli politicians, businessmen and officials.

Patel had spoken to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in a meeting that the then prime minister, Theresa May, did not know about and with no officials present. Thirteen meetings were held in the presence of Lord Polak, an experienced Tory lobbyist.

Patel conceded in her resignation letter that her actions had fallen below the required standards of transparency and openness.

Damian Green

In December 2017, Green was forced to resign as first secretary of state after making misleading and inaccurate statements about his knowledge of pornography found on his computer in 2008.

He was found to have breached the ministerial code in an official report by the Cabinet Office, which found that public statements he had made relating to what he knew about the claims were “inaccurate and misleading”.


Sarah Marsh

The GuardianTramp

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