New ethics chief ‘must be a top priority’ to restore trust

THE Tory leadership candidates should promise to appoint a new ethics adviser within 100 days of taking office, Boris Johnson’s former anti-corruption tsar said yesterday.

John Penrose, who held the position for five years before his resignation in June, put the demand to replace Lord Geidt at the heart of a five-point plan that he hopes both Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss will give their backing to.

Other proposals include widening transparency data to cover more government meetings and tighter checks on substantial political donations.

Mr Sunak last month promised that filling the role vacated by Lord Geidt – who resigned after a row with Mr Johnson over steel tariffs – was one of “the first things” he would do if elected.

A pledge to “restore trust” is at the heart of the former chancellor’s campaign, while Ms Truss has said Britons could count on her to keep promises.

Mr Penrose now hopes they will back up their rhetoric and implement new measures to improve standards in public life.

“The growing catalogue of political and lobbying scandals undermine trust in Government and politics, create reputational risks for government and

Parliament, as well as harming our democratic institutions,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

“Resetting the standards framework would strengthen UK democracy while enhancing Global Britain’s ability to fight corruption and promote good governance abroad.”

In addition to hiring a new independent ethics adviser, Mr Penrose urged Ms Truss and Mr Sunak to make lobbying more transparent by publishing more detailed minutes and also disclose “informal lobbying” – including through modern communication channels like WhatsApp.

He called for the leadership hopefuls to consult on ensuring substantial donor funds “do not come from hostile actors” and requiring donations to either come from named individuals or organisations whose ownership can be fully traced.

Mr Penrose also proposed a new cross-government compliance system to ensure all departments adhere to conflict of interest rules.

His fifth and final point is reform of the Governance Code to make ministers more accountable to select committees if they appoint a candidate who is not supported by an assessment panel.