Investigation into ministerial code breach 'still outstanding'

Future of Lord Geidt's inquiry into MP Nusrat Ghani's allegations of Islamophobia still undecided, Case confirms

Nusrat Ghani speaks at an event on "challenging Islamophobia". Photo: Russell Hart/Alamy Live News

An investigation by Lord Geidt into allegations of Islamophobia against an MP “remains outstanding” four months after the government’s former standards adviser quit, the cabinet secretary has confirmed.

In a letter to Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee chair William Wragg, Case confirmed a decision has still not been made on how to handle the probe that began 10 months ago.

Case was responding to a letter from Wragg in July, asking for an update of the status of an outstanding “live investigation” started by the former independent adviser on ministerial standards.

Wragg did not specify at the time what incident Geidt had been looking into. However, in his letter Case referenced a response by Cabinet Office minister Edward Argar to a written question last month, in which Argar confirmed it concerned allegations of Islamophobia experienced by Nusrat Ghani.

Ghani was fired as a transport minister in a 2020 reshuffle. In January this year she alleged she had been told it was because her “‘Muslim woman minister’ status was making colleagues uncomfortable”. Boris Johnson, who was prime minister at the time, instructed Geidt to investigate on 23 January.

Then-chief whip Mark Spencer said Ghani, who was appointed as science minister last month, had been referring to him. He said her claim was false and defamatory.

Following Geidt's departure, then-Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis said Johnson had decided "the investigation should be a matter for a new independent adviser function, as soon as appointed by his successor".

Asked about the status of the investigation by deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner, Argar reiterated on 22 September that it “had not been completed under the previous administration”.

“Decisions on concluding this matter will be taken in due course,” he added.

Case’s letter confirmed that this is still the case, and added: “I hope you will understand that, in these circumstances, I am not able to respond to your letter more substantively but would like to reassure you that we have provided as much information as is possible at this stage.”

In his July letter, Wragg had asked if the investigation had been completed, or – if not – a draft report had been produced.

He also asked the cab sec to set out the process for Geidt’s successor to resume the inquiry.

However, questions remain over whether the prime minister will appoint a replacement for Geidt, who resigned in June after being put in what he described as an "impossible and odious position" by Johnson over a proposed “deliberate and purposeful breach” of the ministerial code.

Liz Truss has so far refused to commit to appointing an  independent adviser on ministerial standards.

During this summer’s Conservative Party leadership race, she suggested it might be unnecessary because she “has always acted with integrity” and “understands the “difference between right and wrong”.

 “I do think one of the problems we have got in this country in the way we approach things is we have numerous advisers and independent bodies, and rules and regulations,” she said.

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