- Boris Johnson vowed to give his dirty adviser more powers by ‘no later than the end of March’.
- Now the government is postponing reform of Lord Geidt’s role until April.
- The chairman of the Commons standards committee says there must be “significant changes”.
New powers for the independent adviser to Ministerial Standards promised by Boris Johnson, which are due to come into force “no later than the end of March”, are to be postponed until April, the government has said.
Johnson pledged to strengthen Lord Geidt’s role in letters exchanged in December and published in January after it emerged that an inquiry by Geidt into the renovation of the Downing Street flat was blocked by the Government’s failure to provide him with all relevant information on the to make available, had been hindered.
Geidt was highly critical of the omissions, prompting a “humble and sincere apology” from the Prime Minister.
Johnson also pledged to provide Geidt with dedicated support from officials and “the highest standard of support and attention in pursuing your work,” promising these changes would “go into effect to your satisfaction no later than the end of March.”
Geidt welcomed the news, saying that “by the time of my next annual report in April, he would expect to be able to describe the independent advisor’s role in terms of significantly greater authority, independence and impact, which is consistent with the ambitions for the office that that’s you left.”
However, the government is now using Geidt’s April deadline for its annual report to justify a delay in providing the new powers.
A Cabinet Office spokesman told Insider: “Work is underway to support the role of independent adviser. We will provide an update in due course.”
They referred to Geidt’s letter in which he referred to his April annual report and suggested constructive talks were underway.
The leader of the House of Commons Standards Committee has criticized the government for the delay.
Chris Bryant, a Labor MP, says the government is trying to “dodge and be ambiguous” even though “reform is long overdue”.
Bryant told Insider, “We were promised a major change by the end of March. And the government should deliver that.
“It’s bad enough to have one rule for them and another for us, but you can’t have one timeline for them and another for us.
“I bet they won’t want to do what Geidt wants.”
Separately, the independent Standards in Public Life Committee, chaired by Jonathan Evans, has recommended that the adviser should be able to initiate investigations into breaches of the Ministerial Code themselves.
Despite Geidt’s request that the December correspondence be published “in the coming days”, it took the House of Commons back from its Christmas break for the Downing Street letters to be published. Geidt’s role is formally unrelated to the House of Commons as it is a Prime Minister’s appointment.
The House of Commons is extending its Easter recess on Friday, meaning Downing Street could delay the release of the annual report until April 19.
Geidt declined to comment.