POLITICS

New Laws Needed To 'Stop Tony Blair Damaging Reputation Of UK'

22/01/2015 13:43 GMT | Updated 22/01/2015 13:59 GMT
PA/PA Wire
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair answers questions at the parliamentary inquiry at the House of Commons in London, into the 'on the runs' (OTRs) letters and the deal he did with Sinn Fein to secure peace in Northern Ireland.

New laws should be introduced to stop former prime ministers from damaging the reputation of the United Kingdom with their post-Downing Street behaviour, a Conservative MP has demanded.

Andrew Bridgen said the actions of Tony Blair since he left office in 2007 meant parliament should hold and "urgent debate" into the former Labour leader's commercial and business activities.

The MP for Burton-upon-Trent has tabled a parliamentary motion that calls for a new law to "control, restrict and regulate a former incumbent of No.10 Downing Street in the interest of national security and protecting the reputation of the UK".

"It is an essential function of parliament to do its utmost to safeguard and protect the integrity and reputation of the UK, including the conduct of the holder of the highest executive office in the land," the motion adds.

Blair has attracted significant criticism since standing down as prime minister for his decision to provide advice for foreign leaders, including in Kazakhstan and Mongolia, as well as make a lot of money. Estimates of his wealth have varied, with a recent prediction placing it at around £10m. The former PM has previously dismissed reports he is worth as much as £100m.

Blair recently defended his post-political life in an interview with Vanity Fair. "There’s no way I’m going to retire and play golf," he said.

Asked in the Commons today about the conduct of former prime ministers, William Hague noted that there were rules that governed the behaviour of former ministers for two years after they left office.

"After that we rely very much on the good judgement of those former prime ministers and ministers," he said. "That is the current situation, we should look to them all to exercise that good judgement."

Bridgen has suggested former prime minister's should be forced to abide by a version of the so-called 'Nolan principles' - the basis of the ethical standards expected of public office holders - as set out below.

1. Selflessness

Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.

2. Integrity

Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.

3. Objectivity

Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.

4. Accountability

Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.

5. Openness

Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.

6. Honesty

Holders of public office should be truthful.

7. Leadership

Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.

The full motioned tabled by Bridgen reads:

That this House notes that the former Prime Minister Tony Blair remains, in part, a public servant, but considers that his conduct since leaving Downing Street is in breach of the code of ethics established in 1994 to regulate public life which he himself, whilst in Parliament, enforced so vigorously against others; calls for an urgent debate into the former Prime Minister's commercial and business activities, leading to legislation that mirrors controls over the executive that exists in countries such as the US; further notes that such legislation would control, restrict and regulate a former incumbent of No.10 Downing Street in the interest of national security and protecting the reputation of the UK among the UK's friends and allies, by limiting his or her ability to work for foreign nations once out of office; and finally believes that it is an essential function of Parliament to do its utmost to safeguard and protect the integrity and reputation of the UK, including the conduct of the holder of the highest executive office in the land.

It is not just Tory critics of Blair that have questioned his activities since standing down as prime minister. Former home secretary, a close political ally of Blair, told The Huffington Post last year that the former Labour leader had hurt own reputation with his choice to go into business.

"There is no question that he has damaged his reputation," Clarke said. "The money has damaged his reputation, some of his contacts have damaged the reputation, some aspects of the way he's spent his life have damaged his reputation."