Monday, October 3

No 10 refuses to say if ethics adviser will be replaced following Lord Geidt’s resignation after being put in ‘impossible position’ – live | Politics


No 10 refuses to confirm that Johnson will appoint new ethics adviser to replace Lord Geidt

The Downing Street lobby briefing has just finished, and the prime minister’s spokeperson has refused to confirm that Lord Geidt will definitely be replaced as the PM’s ethics adviser.

The spokeperson said that having a process for ensuring standards are maintained by ministers was “vitally important”.

But he said that Geidt himself had raised a number of issues about how the independent adviser on ministers’ interests operated and he said Boris Johnson wanted to “carefully consider those and reflect on them”.

Asked if it was possible that Geidt would not be replaced, the spokesperson replied:

We have not made a final decision on how best to carry out that function, whether it relates to a specific individual or not, particularly given some of the issues that have been raised recently the prime minister alludes to in his letter. So he will carefully consider that before setting out next steps.

At the Downing Street lobby briefing the prime minister’s spokesperson said ministers would not be getting directly involved in talks to stop the rail strikes next week. The spokesperson said:

Broadly speaking, we remain of the position that it is for the unions to negotiated with their employers rather than the government stepping in, there’s no change in that approach.

Proposed legislation to enable the use of agency workers on the railways if the industrial action persists would take “weeks rather than months”, the spokesman added.

The Foreign Office has announced a fresh wave of sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s allies, including on officials involved with the “barbaric treatment of children in Ukraine”, PA Media reports. PA says:

Each individual has been dealt an asset freeze preventing them from dealing with British banks or businesses, and a ban on flying to the UK.

Those sanctioned include the Russian children’s rights commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, who has been accused of enabling 2,000 vulnerable children to be violently taken from the Donbas region for adoption in Russia.

The measures also apply to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, who supports Putin’s war, and Sergey Savostyanov, the deputy of the Moscow city Duma.

Speaking in the Commons, Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, said Patriarch Kirill has “repeatedly abused his position to justify the war”.

This is from Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, on Lord Geidt’s resignation letter.

Lord Geidt walked out because of the odious behaviour of Boris Johnson’s Downing Street. This prime minister has, in his own adviser’s words, made a mockery of the ministerial code. He has now followed both his predecessor and the anti-corruption tsar out of the door in disgust.

There are now no ethics left in this Downing Street regime propped up in office by a Conservative party mired in sleaze and totally unable to tackle the cost of living crisis facing the British people.

Did Boris Johnson deliberately provoke Lord Geidt into resigning? It is normally best to treat conspiracy theories such as this as fiction, but there is something very peculiar about the request from Johnson to Geidt that triggered his resignation. (See 12.01pm and 1.33pm.) In Downing Street they must have known that Geidt was already very close to resigning, because of Partygate. A Partygate resignation, of course, would be damaging to the prime minister. But, as the Telegraph’s Christopher Hope points out, a resignation by Geidt in opposition to a policy supported by the Labour party and designed to protect British jobs in the steel industry? Well, that’s not quite such a bad headline.

Is that it? I can’t see how ‘ethics chief quits after Boris Johnson tried to protect British steel industry’ is a damaging headline for the PM. #LordGeidt

— Christopher Hope📝 (@christopherhope) June 16, 2022

No 10 unable to explain why – in apparently unprecedented move – Geidt was asked to advise on legality of tariff policy

And here are some more lines from what was said at the Downing Street lobby briefing about the resignation of Lord Geidt.

  • The spokesperson was unable to explain why Geidt was being asked to advise the PM on a matter relating to tariff policy. And he failed to give any precedent for Geidt, or his predecessors, giving advice on whether government policy broke international law. One of the odd features of this story is that Geidt was being asked to advise not on the conduct of an individual minister, but on a decision taken by the government as a whole. Boris Johnson said it was a proposal to breach WTO trade rules. (See 12.01pm.) But it is normally for the government law officers to advise on these matters, not the independent adviser on ministers’ interests. Sir Alex Allan was the ethics adviser when the government published its initial internal market bill in 2020, which it admitted would break international law. But there is no evidence Allan was asked if this would be in breach of the ministerial code. And there is no evidence that Geidt was asked about the Northern Ireland protocol bill, which is widely seen as being an even more egregious breach of international law (even though the government claims it is compliant with international treaties). Asked if Geidt had in the past been asked to advise on policies that could be against international law, the spokesperson was unable to answer that. But he also said advice to the PM was confidential.
  • The issue that Geidt was asked to advise on did not relate to Johnson’s personal financial interests. The spokesperson also that, as far as he was aware, the personal finances of other ministers were not involved either. And, asked if Conservative party finances were linked to the issue, he replied:

Not that I am aware of. I have seen speculation to that end, but that’s certainly not my understanding of it.

  • The spokesperson refused to confirm that the dispute between Johnson and Geidt related to tariffs on Chinese steel imports. But he did not deny reports either saying this was the key issue (see 12.44pm).
  • The spokesperson said the government had not yet decided whether to go ahead with the tariff move that Geidt said could be seen as “a deliberate and purposeful breach of the ministerial code”. But he said a decision would be taken “relatively shortly”.

No 10 refuses to confirm that Johnson will appoint new ethics adviser to replace Lord Geidt

The Downing Street lobby briefing has just finished, and the prime minister’s spokeperson has refused to confirm that Lord Geidt will definitely be replaced as the PM’s ethics adviser.

The spokeperson said that having a process for ensuring standards are maintained by ministers was “vitally important”.

But he said that Geidt himself had raised a number of issues about how the independent adviser on ministers’ interests operated and he said Boris Johnson wanted to “carefully consider those and reflect on them”.

Asked if it was possible that Geidt would not be replaced, the spokesperson replied:

We have not made a final decision on how best to carry out that function, whether it relates to a specific individual or not, particularly given some of the issues that have been raised recently the prime minister alludes to in his letter. So he will carefully consider that before setting out next steps.

Jim Pickard from the FT says the dispute between Boris Johnson and Lord Geidt did relate to steel tariffs, as suggested by trade expert Sam Lowe. (See 12.14pm.)

– am told that this is *definitely* about protecting the UK steel industry

– also told that Geidt *never* mentioned potential conflicts re Tory donors in his conversations and texts about this with the prime minister

— Jim Pickard (@PickardJE) June 16, 2022

The Lib Dems are saying Boris Johnson should come to parliament to explain what his dispute with Lord Geidt was about. Wendy Chamberlain, the Lib Dem chief whip, said:

The prime minister now needs to come to parliament and answer questions about these extremely serious allegations … The public is sick of the constant lies and cover-ups by Boris Johnson and the Conservatives. They deserve the full truth now.

In his resignation letter (see 11.50am) Lord Geidt says he finally decided to resign after being asked to approve a move that could be “a deliberate and purposeful breach of the ministerial code”.

But he also says by that point he was close to resignation anyway, and he says he got to this point because he was unhappy about the letter Boris Johnson sent him on 31 May in response to the publication of Geidt’s annual report.

Geidt seems to be particularly angry about the suggestion in the PM’s letter that Geidt had not been clear enough in telling Downing Street that he thought Johnson should address the issue of whether he broke the ministerial code when he gave a statement to MPs about Partygate.

Geidt says in his letter.

Your letter in response to my annual report was welcome. It addressed the absence of comment by you about your obligations under that ministerial code up until that point. You explained that, by paying a fixed-term penalty, you had not breached the ministerial code. The letter did not, however, address specifically the criticism in Sue Gray’s report about your adherence to the Nolan principles (on leadership, in particular). Neither did the letter make mention that, despite being repeatedly questioned in the House of Commons about your obligations under the ministerial code (after paying a fixed-penalty notice), your responses again made no reference to it.

I reported to the select committee yesterday that I was satisfied that you had responded to my annual report to explain your position. I am disappointed, however, that the account you gave was not fuller, as noted above. Moreover, I regret the reference to ‘miscommunication’ between our offices, with the implication that I was somehow responsible for you not being fully aware of my concerns. These inconsistencies and deficiencies notwithstanding, I believed that it was possible to continue credibly as independent adviser, albeit by a very small margin.

Lord Geidt’s resignation letter and Boris Johnson’s response are now on the Downing Street website here.

Sam Lowe, a trade expert who works for the Flint Global consultancy, has posted on Twitter about the dispute that seems to be behind Lord Geidt’s resignation.

So last year the independent Trade Remedies Authority recommended that the UK remove a number of safeguard tariffs on Chinese steel.

— Sam Lowe (@SamuelMarcLowe) June 16, 2022

The tariffs were extended for a year … until the end of this month.

At which point I now assume the UK will continue to apply the tariffs on Chinese steel (presumably again agains the recommendation of the TRA), despite not having the legal justification to do so.

— Sam Lowe (@SamuelMarcLowe) June 16, 2022

AND BECAUSE OF THIS, Lord Geidt has seemingly resigned …?

— Sam Lowe (@SamuelMarcLowe) June 16, 2022

Anyway, as one unnamed official has just pointed out to me. These safeguard tariffs can all be linked back to Trump’s trade war, so if Geidt’s resignation brings down the PM we can ultimately blame it all on Donald.

— Sam Lowe (@SamuelMarcLowe) June 16, 2022

Here is Boris Johnson’s reply to Lord Geidt in full.

PM’s reply to Lord Geidt
PM’s reply to Lord Geidt Photograph: No 10

The Downing Street lobby briefing is starting soon. We may get a fuller explanation there of what the WTO tariff issue was that prompted Lord Geidt’s resignation.





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