Lord Geidt: who is Boris Johnson’s former ethics adviser, why has he resigned and reactions explained
Lord Geidt is the second ethics adviser to have resigned during Boris Johnson’s time as Prime Minster
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The move comes after accepting the job in April of last year, after the post was left vacant for five months following the resignation of Johnson’s previous ethics adviser Sir Alex Allan.
In a short statement shared on the Government website, a message from Lord Geidt said: “With regret, I feel that it is right that I am resigning from my post as independent adviser on ministers’ interests.”
This is everything you need to know.
Who is Lord Geidt?
Lord Christopher Geidt is a non-party affiliated member of the House of Lords and Chairman of the Council of King’s College London and, until Wednesday 15 June, had been the Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests.
Lord Geidt was born in Marylebone, London, and grew up on the Isle of Lewis. He attended the Dragon School in Oxford and Glenalmond College. He went on to obtain a degree in War Studies from King’s College London, and another in International Relations from Trinity Hall, Cambridge.
He enlisted in the Scots Guards and attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurts before then being commissioned in the Intelligence Corps. In 1987, Lord Geidt joined the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies, where he became Assistant Director.
From 1994 he worked for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in diplomatic posts in Brussels, Geneva and Sarajevo.
In 2002, he was recruited to the Royal Household as Assistant Private Secretary to the Queen and in 2005 was promoted to Deputy Private Secretary. He served as the Queen’s Private Secretary from 2007 to 2017.
During this period, Lord Geidt was also the Keeper of the Royal Archives, and a Trustee of the Royal Collection and of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Trust. After 10 years in the post, he stopped down in October 2017, where he was succeeded by Sir Edward Young.
In his personal life, Lord Geidt married Emma Charlotte Angela Neill in 1996, the daughter of Baron Neill of Bladen. The two have two daughters together.
What was Lord Geidt’s time as ethics adviser like?
Lord Geidt served as Boris Johnson’s ethics adviser from 28 April 2021 to 15 June 2022.
He began the role by leading an inquiry into the funding of refurbishments made to Johnson’s Downing Street flat and on 28 May 2021, published a report on the allegations surrounding the financing of said renovations.
His report concluded that Johnson did not breach ministerial code, however he added that it was “unwise” for the Prime Minister to have proceeded with the refurbishments without “more rigorous regard for how this would be funded”.
Lord Geidt then launched a probe into Matt Hancock, the former Health Secretary, after it was revealed that he held shares in a family company that had won an NHS contract. He found that Hancock had committed a “minor” but ultimately undeliberate breach of ministerial code.
Earlier this year, Lord Geidt also cleared Chancellor Rishi Sunak of breaching the ministerial code after it was found that Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murthy, held a non-domiciled tax status which exempted her from paying UK tax on her overseas earnings.
Why has he resigned as Boris Johnson’s ethics adviser?
No specific reason has been given for Lord Geidt’s resignation, however it comes the day after he told MPs that it was “reasonable” to suggest that Johnson had broken the ministerial code by breaching lockdown laws.
A little over 24 hours prior to his resignation, the crossbench peer declined to deny that he had previously considered quitting over Johnson’s response to being fined by police over partygate.
Lord Geidt told the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee that he had felt “frustration” and that the option of resignation was always “on the agenda”.
“Resignation is one of the rather blunt but few tools available to the adviser. I am glad that my frustrations were addressed in the way that they were,” he said.
Lord Geidt has become the second second ministerial interests adviser to resign during the Prime Minister’s three years in office.
Sir Alex Allan, Lord Geidt’s predecessor, left the role in November 2020 after finding that Home Secretary Priti Patel had breached the ministerial code.
What has the response to his resignation been like?
A senior source in No 10 told the PA news agency Johnson was “surprised” by Lord Geidt’s resignation, adding: “This is a mystery to the PM.”
Downing Street hinted towards a recent request for Lord Geidt to advise on an undisclosed “commercially sensitive matter” as being behind the resignation.
“This week, the independent adviser was asked to provide advice on a commercially sensitive matter in the national interest, which has previously had cross-party support. No decision had been taken pending that advice,” a Government spokesperson said.
“Whilst we are disappointed, we thank Lord Geidt for his public service. We will appoint a new adviser in due course.”
William Wragg, the Conservative MP who chairs the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, praised Lord Geidt for his decision, and described him as “a person of great integrity, motivated by the highest ideals of public service”.
“For the Prime Minister to lose one adviser on ministers’ interests may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose two looks like carelessness,” Wragg said.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: “The Prime Minister has now driven both of his own hand-picked ethics advisers to resign in despair. If even they can’t defend his conduct in office, how can anyone believe he is fit to govern?
“The person who should be leaving No 10 tonight is Boris Johnson himself. Just how long does the country have to wait before Tory MPs finally do the right thing?”
Chris Bryant, the Labour MP who chairs the Commons Standards Committee, praised Lord Geidt as “one of the most honourable men I have ever met”.
“He thought he could discreetly bring about incremental change but he was repeatedly lied to by No 10. In honour Johnson should resign,” Bryant added.