Cabinet minister’s grovelling apology for urging Commons standards watchdog to quit was triggered by intervention from No10 sleaze adviser, Boris Johnson reveals
- Boris Johnson revealed ministerial adviser involved in Kwasi Kwarteng apology
- Business Secretary had suggested that the standards commissioner should quit
- PM said ‘collaboration’ with Lord Geidt led to Mr Kwarteng penning the letter
Kwasi Kwarteng apologised for suggesting the Commons standards commissioner should quit after an intervention from the ministerial watchdog, it was revealed today.
Boris Johnson said his ‘collaboration’ with the adviser on ministerial interests Lord Geidt sparked the Business Secretary’s letter saying sorry for his remarks.
The comments came as the PM gave evidence to the powerful Liaison Committee, made up of committee chairs from across parties.
Mr Johnson repeatedly batted away calls for Lord Geidt to be able to initiate investigations into ministers without his approval.
But he stressed that the peer had been having an impact by referring to his part in the grovelling apology Mr Kwarteng last week.
‘The process by which the letter was generated was one that included collaboration between me and Lord Geidt,’ he said.
Mr Kwarteng was widely criticised for suggesting the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards should consider her position in the wake of the Owen Paterson row.
It was Ms Stone’s investigation that found the then-Tory MP breached the Commons code of conduct by lobbying ministers and officials for two companies paying him more than £100,000 per year.
Kwasi Kwarteng (pictured) apologised for suggesting the Commons standards commissioner should quit after an intervention from the ministerial watchdog, it was revealed today
Boris Johnson said his ‘collaboration’ with Ministerial Adviser Lord Geidt sparked the Business Secretary’s letter saying sorryto Kathryn Stone (left)
As the Government came under intense criticism for its ultimately botched attempt to overhaul the standards system to protect Mr Paterson from suspension, Mr Kwarteng said it was ‘difficult to see what the future of the commissioner is’.
But in a letter sent to Ms Stone and copied to Lord Geidt he later said: ‘Having seen how my remarks have been interpreted, and reflecting on them, I recognise that in answering the question that was posed to me I should have chosen my words more carefully,’ the minister wrote.
‘I did not mean to express doubt about your ability to discharge your role and I apologise for any upset or distress my choice of words may have caused.
‘I recognise that it is incumbent on ministers to adhere to the high standards of the ministerial code, including ensuring that our words are carefully chosen and that we treat others with consideration and respect.
‘I therefore regret if the words I used on this occasion have given the impression of having fallen short of these high standards.’
Speaker Lindsay Hoyle had condemned the remarks by Mr Kwarteng.
And Labour Deputy Leader Angela Rayner had demanded an investigation by Lord Geidt, suggesting Mr Kwarteng’s comments could amount to bullying an official.
Asked if he told Mr Kwarteng to apologise, Mr Johnson said: ‘That’s a matter between me and the Business Secretary. But if you mean did Lord Geidt tell the Business Secretary to apologise the answer is no.’
Pressed if he had asked Mr Kwarteng to go on TV and suggest Kathryn Stone should consider her job, Mr Johnson said: ‘That’s obviously not right, no, I didn’t do that.’
When asked if he knew Mr Kwarteng was going to say that, he said: ‘No.’
‘I certainly thought it was appropriate for the Business Secretary to write in the way he did and supported him in that,’ Mr Johnson added of the apology.
Pressed on whether Lord Geidt should be able to initiate investigations, Mr Johnson said: ‘What Lord Geidt can certainly do, under the new dispensation that we’ve agreed, is that he can suggest to me at his own initiative something that he thinks bears investigations or that needs to be corrected or where something has gone wrong.’
Mr Johnson said it would be ‘hard to think of circumstances in which I would want to overrule him’.
But asked why, therefore, he would not just give Lord Geidt the power to start investigations, he added: ‘I hope… I think people can see that the balance of the situation is, I think, well-judged at the moment.’
Hours before the Prime Minister U-turned on the bid to prevent Mr Paterson’s suspension, Mr Kwarteng was asked on Sky News whether he thought Ms Stone should resign.
‘I think it’s difficult to see what the future of the commissioner is, given the fact that we’re reviewing the process, and we’re overturning and trying to reform this whole process, but it’s up to the commissioner to decide her position,’ he replied.
Pushed on what he meant by ‘decide her position’, Mr Kwarteng said: ‘It’s up to her to do that. I mean, it’s up to anyone where they’ve made a judgment and people have sought to change that, to consider their position, that’s a natural thing, but I’m not saying she should resign.’
The PM was giving evidence to the powerful Liaison Committee, made up of committee chairs from across parties
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