Exclusive: Rishi Sunak Urged To Appoint Ethics Tsar Amid Delay To Islamophobia Probe

Labour called the delay to the Cabinet Office probe 'disgraceful'. (Photo: Getty Images)
Labour called the delay to the Cabinet Office probe 'disgraceful'. (Photo: Getty Images)

Labour called the delay to the Cabinet Office probe 'disgraceful'. (Photo: Getty Images)

Rishi Sunak has been urged to appoint a new ethics adviser to tackle the “disgraceful” delay to an investigation into alleged Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.

Earlier this year Tory MP Nusrat Ghani claimed she was sacked as a minister after being told by the then chief whip, Mark Spencer, that her “Muslimness” was “making colleagues uncomfortable”.

Spencer — who has now been appointed farming minister under Sunak —  has strongly denied the allegations, calling them “defamatory”.

On hearing Ghani’s claims, former prime minister Boris Johnson announced a full Cabinet Office probe to “establish the facts”.

But last month, cabinet secretary Simon Case admitted the investigation remains “outstanding”.

And despite Downing Street committing to appointing a new ethics adviser last month to replace the two that departed under Johnson, one has yet to be chosen.

HuffPost UK can reveal that Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner and party chair Anneliese Dodds have written to Case to demand “full transparency” on the status of the probe.

Their intervention comes after government figures showed that religious hate crimes targeting Muslims rose by 28% in the last year, and that they accounted for 42% of all religious hate crimes recorded in 2021/22.

Earlier this week The Independent reported that the government was also considering dropping the working definition of Islamophobia.

Rayner told HuffPost UK: “Rishi Sunak said one of the first things he would do as prime minister would be to appoint a new ethics advisor.

“Instead, he appointed a home secretary who resigned over security breaches and an immigration minister who admitted acting unlawfully in office, while the minister at the centre of these allegations remains on the government frontbench.”

Dodds added: “As we enter Islamophobia awareness month, it is disgraceful that an investigation into Islamophobia within the Conservative Party has still not been completed — ten months after the allegations were made.

“It tells you everything you need to know about the Conservatives’ commitment to tackling this insidious hatred in their ranks.

“There’s a new prime minister in Downing Street, but the same old sleaze-ridden Conservatives are running the country.”

In their joint letter to Case, Dodds and Rayner ask whether he will “remind” Sunak of the need to appoint a new ethics adviser.

“You will be aware that Mark Spencer MP, the minister at the centre of these allegations, remains on the government frontbench, and that he has remained in ministerial office since Ms Ghani first raised this issue,” the pair wrote.

“It is therefore in the interest of all individuals concerned, the government and the general public to understand whether or not the ministerial code was broken in this case.

“The unacceptable delay to this investigation underscores the urgent need for a new independent adviser on ministers’ interests.

“Will you remind the prime minister of the need to appoint a fully independent adviser with real powers as soon as possible? Will you also stress the importance of expediting the Ghani investigation once that new postholder is in place?”

The first ethics adviser to quit under Johnson was Sir Alex Allan in 2020 after the prime minister refused to accept his findings that former home secretary Priti Patel had bullied civil servants.

Lord Geidt then resigned in June this year after he admitted during a tough select committee session that the PM may have broken the ministerial code over the partygate scandal.

A Cabinet Office source said an update on the Ghani investigation would be given in due course.

Downing Street has been approached for comment.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.