UK to speed up publication of ministers’ interests amid ethics row

The UK government has said it is working to speed up the process of publishing ministers’ financial interests in a bid to allay criticism following a spate of ethics-related disputes.

Oliver Dowden, the minister responsible for the Cabinet Office, announced the move on Thursday, telling MPs he wanted “declarations of ministerial interests . . . closer to” those of other MPs.

The move comes amid mounting allegations of a culture of slander at the top of government following a spate of controversy over ministers’ conduct.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak – who pledged “integrity and accountability” as he entered Downing Street in October last year – last week sacked Nadhim Zahawi as leader of the Conservative Party for seven breaches of the Ministers Code over his tax affairs.

Meanwhile, a public sector union on Wednesday called for Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab to be suspended pending an investigation into allegations that he bullied staff in several Whitehall departments.

The Cabinet Office has been at the center of both disputes due to its role in coordinating the vetting of ministers and informing the Prime Minister of the day of concerns about a potential candidate.

According to a Whitehall insider, the Cabinet Office’s decorum and ethics (PET) team was aware of the concerns raised about Raab and put them “in writing” but not as formal complaints before Sunak appointed Raab his deputy.

Adam Tolley KC, an employment attorney, is leading an investigation into the claims against Raab, who also serves as Attorney General and denies bullying.

Downing Street staff have insisted PET officials never advised Sunak against appointing Raab.

The latest register of ministers’ interests was released in May last year, when Boris Johnson was prime minister.

A register is normally published every six months, but the release of a new list has been complicated by the high turnover of ministers in recent months following Johnson’s departure from office in July last year and Liz Truss’ short tenure.

Asked by Chris Bryant, chairman of the House of Commons Standards Committee, why declarations by ministers are so much slower than those for other MPs, Dowden said: “We are taking steps to move towards faster declarations of ministerial interests so that they are more closely aligned with.” the statements of the MEPs.”

Dowden added that he was “working through” the processes to speed up the release alongside Penny Mordaunt, leader of the House of Commons. However, he did not specify how regularly the list might be updated in the future or when the change would take effect.

The interest register of the backbenchers is constantly updated.

Regular updates to the Ministers’ Register of Interests might have brought Zahawi-related issues to light more quickly. He paid a tax bill and a penalty of around £5million to HM Revenue & Customs last year while serving as the Authority’s Chancellor and Chief Warden.

Labor Deputy Leader Angela Rayner told the Commons that Sir Laurie Magnus, ethics adviser, found out that Zahawi updated the register just three months after he was appointed Tory leader.

Its failure to provide an update was not disclosed as no new register was released.

Asked by Rayner how many other ministers would still have to make statements about external interests and whether he could guarantee no further conflicts of interest would arise, Dowden insisted the government was adhering to “high standards of transparency”. UK to speed up publication of ministers’ interests amid ethics row

Adam Bradshaw

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