Labour urges Boris Johnson to appoint independent standards adviser

Appointment of new standards adviser comes hot on the heels of the Electoral Commission launching an inquiry into the renovation of Boris Johnson’s flat.

The Labour party has called for Boris Johnson to appoint a “fully independent” standards adviser to monitor both his own and other ministers’ conduct.

The call comes after Lord Geidt, a member of the House of Lords, was announced as the new standards adviser tasked with investigating the funding of the PM’s flat renovation and advising on the ministerial code.

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Leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, has objected to the stipulation that Lord Geidt will require Boris Johnson’s permission to actually carry out inquiries.

The PM has faced a high level of scrutiny over how the refurbishment of his Number 11 flat was funded.

Speaking on ITV’s Peston show, Starmer said:

"The idea that an inquiry can't get going unless the prime minister says it can get going... undermines the whole fabric.”

"I would bring in changes, an independent adviser who can actually start investigations of his or her own volition."

No 10, however, insisted that “successive” advisers have been hired under the same terms as Lord Geidt.

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Lord Geidt will not be the only one investigating how the renovation of Johnson’s flat was paid for.

On Wednesday (April 29), the Electoral Commission - the political finances watchdog - launched an investigation into the Conservative Party’s adherence to laws on political donations.

They said in a statement yesterday that there were "reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence or offences may have occurred".

The FDA senior civil servants' union is also taking legal action against the government regarding its stance on the ministerial code, saying decisions made under it should be subject to appeal in courts.

Usually, MPs are obliged to register any loans or donations which might influence their actions within 28 days of receiving them - with a list of minister’s interests subject to separate reporting rules.

Johnson has insisted that renovations on his flat were paid for by himself, but the PM hasn’t clarified whether or not he was loaned the money and later repaid it.

Downing Street has said Lord Geidt will both carry out his own enquiry into the renovations and “advise the prime minister on any further registration of interests that may be needed".

They said that the new adviser had agreed to terms of reference which allow him to "raise issues of concern to the attention of the PM on a confidential basis".

Lord Geidt can also "provide recommendations on sanctions following an investigation, enhancing the advice available to the prime minister", a statement added.

The Prime Minister’s spokesperson, however, said that the PM is "the ultimate arbiter" of the ministerial code and would be able to decide whether to accept or reject any findings made.