According to a new report, the rules governing the conduct of ministers and senior officials need to be strengthened.
The Committee on Standards in Public Life, which advises the Prime Minister on ethical standards, has carried out a review of the trials in Westminster.
He concluded that transparency on lobbying was “poor” and the current guidance relied too much on conventions.
The watchdog advised Boris Johnson to tighten the rules.
A cabinet spokesperson said the government would “carefully consider” the report.
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The review of the committee began in September last year, shortly before a discussion broke out over the publication of a report on the bullying allegations against Interior Minister Priti Patel, and the Greensill lobby scandal involving former Prime Minister David Cameron. hit Westminster.
It released its interim results in July, calling for more transparency on lobby ministers and improvements to the rules on when ministers can take on private sector roles after they leave government.
Releasing the full report findings, committee chairman and former MI5 director Lord Evans said social media, political polarization and what he described as “escalating public debate” increased the risks for public standards, along with further pressure from the pandemic and Brexit.
He added: “High standards of conduct support our democracy, economy and foreign policy.
“The UK’s success in defending corruption abroad depends on its reputation for ethical conduct at home.”
“Supervision and leadership”
The report found that the effectiveness of ethical regulators in Whitehall “has not kept pace with broader changes” and said there was a “particular need for reform in central government.”
The committee recommended strengthening restrictions and guidelines on lobbying, particularly when carried out through informal channels.
And he asked for more power to be given to the independent advisor on ministerial standards, who advises the premier on the rules governing the conduct of his cabinet, the ministerial code.
Lord Evans also wanted the code to include a list of possible sanctions the prime minister could impose on those who violate it, including apologies, fines and requests for resignations.
And he said he wanted these stronger rules to be transcribed into law.
“Agreements to uphold ethical standards in government have come under close scrutiny and significant criticism in recent months,” said Lord Evans. “Maintaining high standards requires vigilance and leadership.
“We believe our recommendations outline a reform agenda necessary to restore public confidence in the regulation of ethical standards in government.”
The report was welcomed by Labor, with its deputy leader Angela Rayner accusing Johnson and his party of “repeatedly undermining the standards in our public life.”
He added: “The system that should comply with the ministerial code, lobbying rules, corporate appointments, public appointments and transparency is clearly unsuitable for the purpose.
“The ministers have disregarded the rules and it is time for a radical overhaul of the system”.
The organization of the Transparency International UK campaign also welcomed the report and said the recommendations should be fully implemented.
Chief Executive Daniel Bruce said: “It is up to the Prime Minister to implement these meaningful but sensible reforms without delay.
“Not doing so would be a deliberate choice to leave the door wide open to abuses of the public office for private gain.”
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- Lobby in the UK
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