The Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests Sir Laurie Magnus has concluded Mark Spencer and the whips office did not break the Ministerial Code over the sacking of Nus Ghani in February 2020, following Ghani’s complaint that she had been let go because of her Muslim faith. The inquiry into Ghani’s allegations was launched by Boris around a year ago, with Magnus’s predecessor Lord Geidt initially in charge prior to his resignation. Laurie Magnus picked up the pieces following his appointment in December.
In letters between Magnus and the PM published today, Magnus concludes that while “there are procedural and pastoral lessons to be drawn from [his] investigation”, the “shortcomings” in Spencer’s response to the probe don’t amount to a clear breach:
My overall conclusion from this investigation is that what should have been an open and trusting conversation between colleagues instead became a significant disagreement which was escalated to the then Prime Minister and, 18 months later, reported in the media. I do not believe, when considered with the inconclusive evidence from the first two parts of this investigation, that the shortcomings identified in Mr Spencer’s response to Ms Ghani’s concerns amount to a clear failure to meet the standards set out in the Ministerial Code. However, there are procedural and pastoral lessons to be drawn from this investigation which should be considered by those engaged in handling ministerial appointments and dismissals in future.”
Magnus adds “it is not possible to conclude absolutely that such comments [about Ghani’s faith] were not made, but I have found no evidence.” Apparently, Ghani and Spencer have “very different” recollections of what happened. Given the lack of evidence, Rishi has confirmed in his response letter that no further action will be taken.
UPDATE: Ghani responds:
“Sir Laurie’s report is very clear that my evidence was credible and ‘consistent’. I’m relieved that the report acknowledges that the previously denied 4th March 2020 meeting did take place and was central to the matter, as well as that Twitter statements were published ‘without evidence’. There is no criticism or doubt expressed regarding my version of events. Others will have to explain the report noting the ‘omissions’, ‘shortcomings’, ‘incomplete information’, ‘inaccurate briefings’ and claims ‘implied without evidence’ in their actions and story. We all serve at the Prime Minister’s choosing and there is no shame in a political career ending. But to be told your faith and identity is the reason for it cannot be acceptable in any way.”
Read both letters below:
Rishi Sunak has just announced he’s sacked Nadhim Zahawi after his independent advisor on ministerial standards found a “serious breach of the Ministerial Code”. No. 10 just published the letter from Sunak to Zahawi informing him of his dismissal.
“Following the completion of the Independent Adviser’s investigation – the findings of which he has shared with us both – it is clear that there has been a serious breach of the Ministerial Code. As a result, I have informed you of my decision to remove you from your position in His Majesty’s Government.”
The government has also published Sir Laurie Magnus’s investigation in full. Some of the key findings:
“I consider that Mr Zahawi, in holding the high privilege of being a Minister of the Crown, has shown insufficient regard for the General Principles of the Ministerial Code and the requirements in particular, under the seven Principles of Public Life, to be honest, open and an exemplary leader through his own behaviour. I want to commend Mr Zahawi for his willingness to assist with my inquiry. I also fully appreciate the pressures faced by Ministers as they address the complex issues of government and the difficulties they encounter in balancing the demands of their personal lives and their ministerial responsibilities. These factors, however, cannot mitigate my overall judgement that Mr Zahawi’s conduct as a Minister has fallen below the high standards that, as Prime Minister, you rightly expect from those who serve in your government.”
Read Magnus’s findings in full below:
Rishi has finally got round to appointing an independent adviser on ministers’ interests, with Chairman of Historic England Sir Laurie Magnus getting the unenviable job. Unlike the last Ministerial Code forward, signed off on by Boris, Rishi re-promises to ensure “integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level.” The role has been vacant for six months…
Sir Laurie is an old Etonian who went to Oxford and then became an investment banker, so presumably No. 10 has little to fear in the way of Magnus wanting to come in and shake up the system. He seems fairly sound, previously making headlines when condemning the statue topplers during the 2020 BLM protests.
The lobby will no doubt now resume its campaign to have the independent advisor be able to initiate investigations without the approval of the PM, thereby making an unaccountable advisor the most powerful person in the land. Hopefully Rishi will deal with these calls as he is the strikes – by ignoring them…