Anti-corruption tsar quits and urges PM to resign over Ministerial Code ‘breach’

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John Penrose, the Prime Minister’s anti-corruption tsar who resigned, claiming it is ‘pretty clear’ that Boris Johnson broke the Ministerial Code (Beresford Hodge/PA) (PA Wire)
John Penrose, the Prime Minister’s anti-corruption tsar who resigned, claiming it is ‘pretty clear’ that Boris Johnson broke the Ministerial Code (Beresford Hodge/PA) (PA Wire)

The PM has set out his view in relation to the code and the fixed penalty notice that he received, both in terms of is overall response to Sue Gray but also addressing some of the points that were raised by Lord Geidt, last week

Downing Street spokesman

The Government’s anti-corruption tsar has resigned from his post and called on the Prime Minister to do the same, accusing him of breaking the Ministerial Code.

John Penrose, Conservative MP for Weston-super-Mare, said Boris Johnson had failed to address the Sue Gray report’s “very serious criticisms” of the leadership at 10 Downing Street.

He cited the Prime Minister’s letter to independent standards adviser Lord Geidt, published on May 31 addressing both the annual report on the Ministerial Code and Ms Gray’s report on partygate.

Noting that leadership was one of the “Nolan Principles” that are supposed to govern conduct in public life, Mr Penrose wrote: “The only fair conclusion to draw from the Sue Gray Report is that you have breached a fundamental principle of the Ministerial Code – a clear resigning matter.

“But your letter to your independent adviser on the Ministerial Code ignores this absolutely central, non-negotiable issue completely. And, if it had addressed it, it is hard to see how it could have reached any other conclusion than that you had broken the code.”

Sharing his letter of resignation on social media, Mr Penrose added that it was “pretty clear” the Prime Minister had broken the code.

Mr Penrose, who has served as the Government’s anti-corruption champion since December 2017, said he was not unhappy with the action the Government was taking to fight corruption and was “grateful” to the Prime Minister for “getting Brexit done”, winning the 2019 election and “getting the country out of Covid lockdown”.

But he added that these factors could not “excuse or justify a fundamental breach of the Ministerial Code”.

He said: “As a result, I’m afraid it wouldn’t be honourable or right for me to remain as your anti-corruption champion after reaching this conclusion, nor for you to remain as Prime Minister either.

“I hope you will now stand aside so we can look to the future and choose your successor.”

Mr Penrose’s letter came after 1922 Committee chair Sir Graham Brady announced that a confidence vote in the Prime Minister would be held on Monday evening.

Downing Street said the Prime Minister did not accept Mr Penrose’s claim that he had breached the Ministerial Code.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The Prime Minister addressed this last week. He set out his rationale on the code. Part of that involved correcting the parliamentary record at the earliest possible opportunity.

“The PM has set out his view in relation to the code and the fixed penalty notice that he received, both in terms of is overall response to Sue Gray but also addressing some of the points that were raised by Lord Geidt (the Prime Minister’s adviser on the code), last week.”

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