Hancock’s Half Hour, Episode 1: The Ministerial Code (Cabinet Office, 2019)

The Hancock Scandal presents an ideal opportunity to revisit the Ministerial Code, a document setting out the standards of conduct expected of ministers and how they discharge their duty. The full document – only 36 pages – can be read here. Below are two important sections: first, the foreword by Boris Johnson; second the Seven Principles of Public Life. This 2019 text is the latest version of the Code, shortly pre-Brexit and not a long way before Covid. Johnson’s foreword is especially poignant, when you consider the discrepancy between what was recklessly promised and where we are now: “We will seize the opportunities offered by Brexit, investing in education, technology and infrastructure, unlocking the talents of the whole nation and levelling up across our United Kingdom so that no town or community is ever again left behind or forgotten. In doing so, we will make our country the greatest place to invest or set up a business, the greatest place to send your kids to school and the greatest place in the world to live and bring up a family. To fulfil this mission, and win back the trust of the British people, we must uphold the very highest standards of propriety – and this code sets out how we must do so.” As to Hancock and Johnson, one can try to work out for oneself how many of the Seven Principles they have flouted while in office.

MINISTERIAL CODE


Foreword by
The Prime Minister

The mission of this Government is to deliver Brexit on 31st October for the purpose of uniting and re-energising our whole United Kingdom and making this country the greatest place on earth.

We will seize the opportunities offered by Brexit, investing in education, technology and infrastructure, unlocking the talents of the whole nation and levelling up across our United Kingdom so that no town or community is ever again left behind or forgotten. In doing so, we will make our country the greatest place to invest or set up a business, the greatest place to send your kids to school and the greatest place in the world to live and bring up a family. To fulfil this mission, and win back the trust of the British people, we must uphold the very highest standards of propriety – and this code sets out how we must do so.

There must be no bullying and no harassment; no leaking; no breach of collective responsibility. No misuse of taxpayer money and no actual or perceived conflicts of interest. The precious principles of public life enshrined
in this document – integrity, objectivity, accountability, transparency, honesty and leadership in the public interest – must be honoured at all times; as must the political impartiality of our much admired civil service.

Crucially, there must be no delay – and no misuse of process or procedure by any individual Minister that would seek to stall the collective decisions necessary to deliver Brexit and secure the wider changes needed across our United Kingdom.

The time has come to act, to take decisions, and to give strong leadership to change this country for the better.

That is what this Government will do.

BORIS JOHNSON


The Seven Principles of Public Life


Selflessness: Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.

Integrity: Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.

Objectivity: Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.

Accountability: Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny necessary to ensure this.

Openness: Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for doing so.

Honesty: Holders of public office should be truthful.

Leadership: Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.

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