Labour calls for probe into Kwarteng’s comments on standards watchdog

Angela Rayner says investigation needed over business secretary’s remarks to media about Kathryn Stone

Labour has demanded an investigation into Kwasi Kwarteng’s speculation about the future of parliament’s standards watchdog in the wake of the Owen Paterson controversy.

Angela Rayner, the deputy Labour leader, has written to Boris Johnson’s ethical adviser calling for an investigation into Kwarteng’s remarks, claiming they may have breached the ministerial code.

Rayner also suggested the business secretary’s comments could amount to bullying an official.

When asked whether Kathryn Stone should resign her position as parliamentary commissioner for standards following Wednesday’s vote to form a new committee examining the system, Kwarteng said she should “decide [on] her position”.

After a huge backlash from both within his own party and in the general public, Boris Johnson announced a U-turn on the vote less then 24 hours later. When the prime minister made it clear he would no longer seek to prevent Paterson from being punished by parliament for lobbying, the former cabinet minister resigned as an MP.

Speaking on Sky News on Thursday morning, Kwarteng said: “I think it’s difficult to see what the future of the commissioner is, given the fact that we’re reviewing the process, and we’re overturning and trying to reform this whole process, but it’s up to the commissioner to decide her position.”

Pushed on what he meant by “decide her position”, the MP for Spelthorne in Surrey said: “It’s up to her to do that.

“I mean, it’s up to anyone where they’ve made a judgment and people have sought to change that, to consider their position, that’s a natural thing, but I’m not saying she should resign.”

In a letter to Christopher Geidt, Johnson’s independent adviser on ministers’ interests, Rayner said: “For the business secretary to use this entirely corrupt process to bully the independent parliamentary commissioner is disgusting.

“This type of behaviour has no place in our democracy.”

She suggested Kwarteng could be in breach of a section of the code which requires ministers to “treat all those with whom they come into contact with consideration and respect” and for working relationships with civil servants, ministerial and parliamentary colleagues and parliamentary staff to be “proper and appropriate”.

Downing Street would not be drawn on whether Johnson thought Stone should resign.

The prime minister’s official spokesperson said: “That’s entirely a matter for her.”


Nadeem Badshah

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Labour parties like it’s 1997 as Tories descend further into chaos | John Crace
If the IMF intervention wasn’t bad enough for Liz and Kwasi, Keir’s morning round of interviews turned into a victory lap

John Crace

28, Sep, 2022 @3:35 PM

Article image
Labour calls on ethics watchdog to look into PM’s flat refurbishment
Angela Rayner accuses Boris Johnson of trying to install a ‘sham group of Tory stooges’

Aubrey Allegretti and Heather Stewart

05, Nov, 2021 @5:23 PM

Article image
Kwarteng apologises to standards commissioner for suggesting she should resign – as it happened
Latest updates: business secretary apologises to Kathryn Stone, suggesting his comments might have broken ministerial code

Andrew Sparrow

15, Nov, 2021 @6:17 PM

Article image
Letting Hammond off shows PM won’t tackle corruption, says Labour
Former chancellor to face no consequences despite official ruling against his use of government connections

Peter Walker Political correspondent

26, Nov, 2021 @6:22 PM

Article image
UK politics: Starmer says talks with unions will continue on his plans for Labour reform – as it happened
Sir Keir Starmer suggests trade unions that support Labour have not yet backed his plans to change the party’s leadership election rules

Andrew Sparrow

22, Sep, 2021 @4:47 PM

Article image
UK politics: Tory vote to protect Owen Paterson ‘an absolute disgrace’, says Labour – as it happened
Labour fury after Leadsom amendment to stop Owen Paterson facing 30-day suspension for breaking lobbying rules passes by slim majority

Andrew Sparrow

03, Nov, 2021 @6:00 PM

Article image
No 10 chief of staff’s position untenable amid lobbying claims, says Labour
Mark Fullbrook accused of trying to change UK policy by arranging for ministers to meet Libyan politician

Patrick Wintour and Rowena Mason

16, Oct, 2022 @6:52 PM

Article image
Andy Burnham says nationalising railways ‘a no brainer’ – as it happened
Latest updates: all the developments from UK politics as the Labour party conference starts in Liverpool

Andrew Sparrow

25, Sep, 2022 @6:00 PM

Article image
Graham Brady faces questions over ‘opaque’ £800 an hour job
Labour seeks clarity over work done for constituent’s firm by head of the Conservative 1922 Committee

Jessica Elgot Chief political correspondent

18, Nov, 2021 @6:00 AM

Article image
Government accused of attempt to undermine standards regulator
Kwarteng’s remarks were ‘not some accidental misspoken comment’, FDA union says in Owen Paterson row

Alexandra Topping and Aubrey Allegretti

04, Nov, 2021 @12:36 PM