Revealing Code of Conduct Designed to Prevent Sleaze

Article excerpt

THE GOVERNMENT will launch a fresh attack on sleaze this week with the publication of a new ministerial code that is designed to prevent a repetition of the controversies that surrounded Keith Vaz and Peter Mandelson.

The new code of conduct will force ministers to reveal their financial interests to their most senior civil servants when they take office, including any links to businessmen such as the billionaire Hinduja brothers.

It will be accompanied by the inaugural code of conduct governing ministers' special advisers' and spin-doctors to prevent "bullying" of civil servants. The revised rules are framed to prevent further embarrassing revelations over ministers' financial affairs,

Ministers were required to dispose of any financial interest "giving rise to actual or perceived conflict" under the previous ministerial code. They were not required to inform the Government of their interests, although many chose to.

Under the new rules ministers have to report to their permanent secretaries any potential conflicts of interest with their role in government, including meetings with lobbyists. They will also be told to seek guidance from senior civil servants as to whether their actions contravene the code. One senior Whitehall source said: "There is serious concern that permanent secretaries will be caught up in a rubber-stamping job for ministers' conduct. Civil servants could be left carrying the can. It would be up to the minister whether he went ahead with the permanent secretaries' guidance. We need an assurance that permanent secretaries won't get embroiled. …