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What is the Ministerial Code?

The Ministerial Code sets out the standards and conduct expected of Ministers.

It was first published with this title in 1997. It was previously published as “Questions of Procedure for Ministers” in 1992, although it had been in existence before this as a confidential internal circular, since at least the Second World War, and was well known unofficially in the media, academic texts and Parliament.

Its text has been subject to revision following recommendations from the Committee on Standards in Public Life and the Select Committee on Public Administrationand Constitutional Affairs. Proposals for reform of the Code and associated procedures are summarised. 

It has become customary for a revised Code to be published at the beginning of a new administration.

The 2019 Ministerial Code 

The latest version of the Ministerial Code was issued on 23 August 2019 by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. This was in the context of discussions in and out of Parliament on Brexit. The updated message in the Code was to stress collective responsibility and security of Government discussions.  

The paper includes a history of the Code and describes significant changes made in previous editions from 2001. 

The Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests

Since 2006 there has been an Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests, to maintain a register of Ministers’ interests, to give confidential advice on request from Ministers and to conduct investigations at the request of the Prime Minister. There have been calls for this role to be reviewed, particularly with regard to the current absence of any power for the Adviser to initiate investigations unless so instructed by the Prime Minister. Lord Geidt was appointed as the new Independent Adviser in April 2021 and the Terms of Reference for the role were updated. 

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