The prime minister’s standards adviser says he expects to be given greater authority and independence within the next few months after a row over Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat refurbishment.
Christopher Geidt also said the Cabinet Office’s approach to his investigation into funding arrangements for the refurbishment of the flat “shook his confidence” in the system.
The PM’s independent adviser on ministerial standards has outlined his intentions for the role in a letter to William Wragg, chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee.
“I would expect by the time of my next annual report in April to be able to describe the role of independent adviser in terms of considerably greater authority, independence and effect, consistent with the ambitions for the office that the prime minister has set out,” Lord Geidt said.
Wragg had asked if Geidt felt he should be allowed to launch his own inquiries into allegations of ministerial wrongdoing. Currently, he can propose an investigation but can only proceed with the PM’s approval.
Geidt said he would look into how his role could be strengthened after the PM promised it would be enhanced.
Johnson apologised last week for failing to provide Geidt with details of all his communications with the Tory donor who funded the £142,000 refurbishment of his No.11 Downing Street flat.
The prime minister said the Cabinet Office should have done more to keep Geidt informed of events.
In his letter to Wragg, Geidt said: “The episode shook my confidence precisely because potential and real failures of process occurred in more than one part of the apparatus of government.
“These failures were not, in my view, due to a lack of investigatory powers, but rather they showed insufficient care for the role of independent adviser.”
The prime minister has offered Geidt more dedicated support from Cabinet Office officials and “the highest standards of support and attention” when pursuing his work.
Geidt welcomed the PM’s apology “for the shortcomings in process which led to these circumstances” and, “more importantly”, the immediate measures proposed to better support his role.
“There will be an opportunity now to consider how best to give effect to that requirement,” Geidt said.
The independent Committee on Standards in Public Life has recommended new powers for the independent adviser to initiate inquiries without the need for the PM’s instruction.
Geidt said he will look into both the remit of his appointment and the ministerial code, taking into account recommendations from CSPL.
The standards adviser said Johnson has actively supported and encouraged the steps he has taken to enhance his role. The PM's office provided “thorough, courteous and timely” responses to every question he raised when re-opening his investigation into the flat refurbishment, he added.