Advertisement

Boris Johnson’s ethics adviser rapped for himself breaking a parliamentary rule

Boris Johnson’s former ethics chief Lord Geidt (PA Wire)
Boris Johnson’s former ethics chief Lord Geidt (PA Wire)

Boris Johnson’s ethics adviser has been rapped for himself breaking a parliamentary rule.

Lord Geidt was the Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests for part of the time when Mr Johnson was Prime Minister before quitting the role in 2022.

He has now been found himself to have committed one minor breach of Lords rules through an “oversight”.

The House of Lords Conduct Committee also concluded that he had “sought at all times to behave honourably and to comply with the rules”.

But it dismissed an appeal by Lord Geidt against a finding by the Standards Commissioner Martin Jelley that he breached a rule in the Code of Conduct banning the provision of parliamentary services in return for payment or other reward.

An investigation was launched by the commissioner following a complaint alleging that in May 2021 Lord Geidt gave a presentation to Ministry of Defence officials on behalf of US satellite and telecommunications company Theia Group Inc.

Lord Geidt, who at the time had recently been appointed Mr Johnson’s ethics adviser, had registered an interest under the remunerated employment section of the Lords register as a UK adviser to the Theia Group.

The commissioner rejected the claim that he had made a presentation but found he took part in the virtual meeting where he made some “introductory remarks”.

“The Commissioner finds that by doing so Lord Geidt provided a parliamentary service in return for payment or other reward. There was in 2021 an absolute prohibition on the provision of such services,” said the Conduct Committee’s report on Wednesday.

The Commissioner acknowledged substantial mitigation in this case, with the service provided limited to one virtual meeting, in which Lord Geidt played a small part.

He therefore did “not regard this as a significant breach of the Code,” however, he did regard it as a breach, and accordingly recommended that Lord Geidt write a letter of apology to the Chair of the Conduct Committee.

Lord Geidt appealed against the decision on three grounds, including that his interest regarding the Theia Group was scrutinised by the Cabinet Secretary and Cabinet Office’s propriety and ethics team.

But the Lords Conduct Committee upheld the decision by the commissioner.

“We accept that Lord Geidt sought at all times to behave honourably and to comply with the rules,” it concluded.

“He believed that authorisation by the Cabinet Secretary and Cabinet Office was sufficient, and the evidence that he sought to be compliant is relevant when considering mitigation.”

However, it stressed: “ Members of the House are personally responsible for complying with the Code of Conduct, and reliance on third parties, even the Cabinet Office, does not displace that responsibility.

“All members of the House, including ministers and other Government employees, are encouraged in any case of doubt to consult the Registrar of Lords’ Interests. It is regrettable that in this case Lord Geidt did not do so.”

The committee said that a letter of apology to the committee chair was the “mildest sanction available, and we agree that it is appropriate in this instance”.

It added: “There are several mitigating factors, including Lord Geidt’s evident desire to comply with the rules, demonstrated by the fact that he sought the advice of the Cabinet Secretary.

“We also note that the parliamentary service Lord Geidt provided to Theia Group Inc was a one-off meeting, in which he played a very limited role. We are persuaded that his breach of the Code of Conduct was an oversight.”

Lord Geidt was appointed Mr Johnson’s Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests in April 2021 but quit in June the following year a day after saying there was a “legitimate question” about whether Mr Johnson broke ministerial rules over Partygate.