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Ministerial code of conduct breach again: Crisis of conduct?

House of Commons

An investigation into the ministerial code of conduct has revealed that Labour Shadow Minister, David Lammy has breached the MPs code by failing to register 16 interests on time.

This comes after it was revealed last week that Sir Keir Starmer had also breached the MPs code of conduct over registration of interest. It was disclosed that the Labour leader was late in registering eight interests, including gifts from different football teams and a sale of a plot of land. In addition to this, it shown that Starmer had received £18,450 advance from publisher Harper Collins in April for a book he is currently writing. Nevertheless, Starmer has pledged to donate the proceeds of this to charitable causes.

Mr. Lammy had failed to register payments from his Black history Month speaking engagements and appearances on a commercial radio station. Furthermore, Lammy had failed to declare several tickets to boxing matches in London and American football game tickets – totaling around £40,000.

The Independent  publicized that the Commissioner for Parliamentary Standards, Kathryn Stone who opened an inquiry into this on June 16th, stated in her summary that she received an allegation that Mr. Lammy failed to register his involvement in a total of eight events occurring from October 7th and November 15th, 2021.

Sorry seems to be the only declaration?

In response to this, the Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy issued a statement expressing his “sincerest apologies “for the late submissions. Mr. Lammy went on to affirm that these events were “genuine oversights resulting from administrative errors on his behalf.”

To prevent such an incident occurring again, Mr. Lammy has promised to reform the inner workings of his team by ensuring that declarations are a key part of weekly agenda meetings and would set reminders amongst his team to “check and submit standard returns.”

In response to this the Commissioner has said she was satisfied that this failed to be a “deliberate intention to mislead”. Nevertheless, Ms. Stone concluded that Mr. Lammy did indeed breach the code by registering a total of 16 interest outside of the 28-day deadline.

A cycle of missed declarations?

The investigation into Mr. Lammy comes alongside an identical investigation into Starmer. At the start of the investigation, Sir Keir was adamant that no such standards had been broken at the time. Unfortunately for the leader of the opposition, the investigation concluded in a similar way to Mr. Lammy’s. It was clear that he had also failed to register gifts. In a similar response, Ms. Stone affirmed that these breaches were “minor and/or inadvertent, and that there was no deliberate attempt to mislead.”

In response, a spokesperson for the Labour Party stated that Sir Keir “takes his responsibilities seriously and has apologised to the commissioner for this inadvertent error”. Like Mr. Lammy, it was reported that Sir Keir has taken several measures to ensure such incidents do not continue.

Final Thought

In the past few months, it is overwhelming clear that standards across the political aisles must dramatically improve. Do poorly timed declarations of gifts automatically mean a serious breach of conduct? Surely not. Nevertheless, in such a time in which public confidence in the standards for those who take political office sits at an all-time low – it is essential to ensure that such incidents fail to happen again.

Outside of the ministerial code of conduct breach, such incidents speak to wider on the ground distain for people hit hardest at the cost-of-living crisis and those who continue to endure the brunt of the cycle of poverty. How can we sure up political literacy and confidence for people on the ground?

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