Press release 02nd Dec 2022

Analysis finds dozens of potential Ministerial Code breaches were not investigated

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December 2, 2022 - Forty potential breaches of the Ministerial Code have not been investigated over the past five years, new analysis from Transparency International UK reveals.

These potential breaches include:

  • A cabinet minister and a junior minister approving bids from each other’s constituencies for money from the £3.6bn Towns Fund.
  • Accepting £120,000 in donations from property developers while serving as Housing Secretary.
  • Approving a controversial planning application from a Conservative Party donor just a day before new rules would have increased the developer’s costs by tens of millions.
  • Holding multiple meetings with a Chinese state-owned nuclear power company with no record of what was discussed.

Download the full list here

Investigations into allegations of ministerial misconduct are conducted by the Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests who must seek permission from the Prime Minister before beginning a formal probe. 

Appointments for this role are made by the Prime Minister without a competitive process, and the position is not defined in law, so exists at the whim of the PM. There has been no Adviser in post since Lord Geidt resigned in June this year, during which time details of five of the 40 potential breaches emerged.

This position should be made truly independent with the power and autonomy to launch investigations without the express permission of the PM, and filled as soon as possible.


Daniel Bruce, Chief Executive of Transparency International UK, said:

“This is further evidence the conventions-based system that is supposed to uphold standards in high-office is simply not fit for purpose. The extent of potential misconduct at the heart of government may be a shock to many, but equally concerning should be the lack of transparency over why these cases were never investigated independently. This all reinforces the perception that politicians in government play by a different set of rules. To help restore much-needed credibility to the Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests and raise standards in public life, the role should be made truly independent with the ability to initiate their own investigations into potential misconduct.”


To help ensure higher standards of behaviour by those in high office Transparency International UK is calling for:

New powers for the Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests

Investigations into potential breaches of the ministerial code can be blocked by the Prime Minister. If the PM does permit an investigation, it is referred to the Independent Advisor on Ministers’ Interests, who carries out an inquiry, and then reports back to the PM. It ultimately is up to the PM if any action is taken.

The Adviser’s role should be put on a statutory footing, and they should be given unfettered autonomy to instigate their own investigations into potential breaches of the Ministerial Code. They should also be allowed to publish their findings without the express permission of Number 10.

The Ministerial Code to become law

The Ministerial Code only exists by convention and at the discretion of the Prime Minister of the day. Were they to find it an inconvenience, they could get rid of it. There are requirements in law for the government to produce similar codes of conduct for the civil service, the diplomatic service, and ministers’ special advisors. Putting the Ministerial Code on a statutory footing would make it harder for Prime Ministers to erode the framework for ensuring standards in high office. 

Open appointments process for the Independent Adviser

The Adviser is currently appointed by a closed and uncompetitive process that makes them the subject of patronage from the Prime Minister.

In future, recruitment to the role should be conducted as openly as other senior public appointments, with a pre-appointment hearing by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee to scrutinise the candidate’s suitability.



Notes to editors:

Transparency International UK is the UK’s leading independent anti-corruption charity.

Our analysis looked at potential breaches of the Ministerial Code between January 2017 and November 2022 where there was no investigation or no consequence. 

We define ‘potential breaches’ as cases covered in the media where we think there are reasonable grounds to suspect a breach has occurred, with reference to the specific part of the Ministerial Code to which the activity relates.

These potential breaches only include those which have a political integrity and/or corruption risk. We have not included bullying and harassment cases, so the total amount of cases not investigated is likely even higher. We have also not included cases where there was no investigation but there was some consequence for the minister involved, for example, if they resigned. 

Of the 40 potential beaches we identified, 35 were not investigated by the Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests, either because the PM did not give them consent to formally investigate or because their findings were withheld from public view.

Details of five further potential beaches (denoted with asterisks in the spreadsheet) only emerged after Lord Geidt’s resignation in June this year, so there was no Adviser in post to investigate.