Theresa May urged to investigate if Boris Johnson's NHS claims broke ministerial code

Catherine Neilan
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His Telegraph article has landed Boris Johnson in hot water with Cabinet colleagues, the Statistics Authority and the Lib Dems (Source: Getty)

The Prime Minister is being urged to investigate whether foreign secretary Boris Johnson broke the ministerial code over his repeated claim that Brexit would allow the government to plough £350m a week back into the NHS.

Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake, who serves as the party's Brexit spokesman, has written to Theresa May asking her to look into a "number of actions and statements" made by Johnson.

Brake argues that Johnson's claims - made most recently in an article for the Daily Telegraph - breached the code for a number of reasons including, "but not limited to", the fact they openly criticised the government, represented a conflict of interests and did not observe "the principle of collective ministerial responsibility".

"The ministerial code sets out the standards of behaviour expected from all those who serve in government," Brake's letter said. "It is clear that Boris Johnson has broken both the spirit and the letter, time and again."

Brake told City A.M. he hoped May would "call time on Johnson's antics and gave him the sack".

"He has repeatedly been dishonest to the British public, and has flouted both the spirit and the letter of the ministerial code, time and again.

"[May] has a simple choice - is the ministerial code worth the paper it's written on, and are ministers going to be brought back in line, or does she just say 'Boris is Boris' and let him and potentially others to jettison ministerial responsibility?"

Brake acknowledged that Johnson would be "potentially dangerous on the outside" of May's cabinet, but if she didn't act it gave him and other would-be rebels "a green light to express dissent" during a highly sensitive period.

Johnson's claims have already landed him in hot water with Sir David Norgrove, head of the UK Statistics Authority, who said the former London mayor was guilty of a “clear misuse” of government figures,

He was also accused of "back-seat driving" by Home Secretary Amber Rudd, while Father of the House Ken Clarke said he should have been sacked but that the Prime Minister was too weak after the election to do it.

Dear Prime Minister

Infringements of Ministerial Code by Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson

I am writing to urge you to investigate whether a number of actions and statements by the current Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, have broken the Ministerial Code.

As you will be aware, the Seven Principles of Public life are selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, and leadership. Ministers are expected to observe these in addition to the Ministerial Code.

Boris Johnson has repeatedly broken the sixth principle which requires holders of public office to be honest, notably in relation to his claim that £350 million per week will be available to the NHS post-Brexit.

The Foreign Secretary has also repeatedly broken the Ministerial code, most recently in his article to the Daily Telegraph and subsequent comments regarding the transition period. His breaches have included, but are not limited to:

  • 1.2 (a) breaching collective responsibility by openly criticising the government.
  • 7.1 failing to recognise that a conflict arises, between his public duty as Foreign Secretary and senior Cabinet member and his private interests campaigning for the leadership of the Conservative party and promoting a hard Brexit
  • 8.6 contributing to a newspaper, without observing the principle of collective Ministerial responsibility.

The Ministerial code sets out the standards of behaviour expected from all those who serve in Government. It is clear that Boris Johnson has broken both the spirit and the letter, time and again.

Please urgently investigate these infractions.

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Tom Brake MP

Shadow Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the European Union

Cc Jeremy Heywood, Cabinet Secretary

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