POLITICS
15/04/2021 21:00 BST

Voters Must Know Ministers’ Financial Affairs Before May Elections, Labour Says

Exclusive: Opposition says delayed register of interests must now be published amid Greensill scandal and concerns about conflicts.

Labour has urged the government to publish the list of government ministers’ financial affairs after Michael Gove hinted that it could be delayed again.

Shadow cabinet ministers Rachel Reeves and Angela Rayner said a failure to publish the register before the May 6 elections risked voters thinking the Tories “could be covering up possible conflicts of interest”.

Their call came amid questions over ministers’ roles in the Greensill lobbying scandal and about who paid for the refurbishment of Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat.

It follows Michael Gove last month hinting that there could be further delays in compiling a new register of interests, which was last published in July 2020 despite the ministerial code requiring it to be released “twice yearly”.

In a letter to Reeves two weeks ago, seen by HuffPost UK, Gove stressed that the list “has not always been published in a 6-monthly sequence” and pointed out that it was not published in 2014 or 2012, and was only published once in 2015 and 2018.

HuffPost UK understands that the government will within days appoint a replacement for Sir Alex Allan, the independent adviser for ministers’ interests who quit last year after the prime minister overruled his advice that Priti Patel’s behaviour towards Home Office staff constituted bullying and breached the ministerial code.

That should pave the way for the publication of a new list of interests.

But the government has still not committed to meeting the requirement for publishing it twice a year.

In a response to Gove, shadow Cabinet Office minister Reeves and Labour deputy leader Rayner said: “The register of ministers’ interests is crucial for the integrity of the government, not least because of the fallout from the Greensill scandal but also because of growing concerns around conflicts of interest and the source of funding for the refurbishment of the prime minister’s flat.

Jonathan Brady - PA Images via Getty Images
Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves

“You have said yourself that transparency should be the hallmark of this government. 

“With that in mind I am sure you will agree that the utmost transparency must be upheld around the register, in order to make clear that ministers abide by the rules which the government itself sets.

“We are writing today to ask if the government will commit, in the interests of transparency and growing concern about the conduct of Conservative ministers implicated in the Greensill scandal, to publishing the much delayed ministers’ register of interests by April 23, so that voters are informed about those who seek to represent them before the elections taking place throughout Britain on May 6?

“Any further delays would lead the public to the understandable assumption that these delays could be covering up possible conflicts of interests involving Conservative ministers and the Conservative Party. 

“The British people deserve a government that is committed to transparency and probity.”

In his earlier March 31 letter to Reeves, Gove said that “every minister complies with all the expectations placed on them, not just by the ministerial code but by the seven principles of public life”. 

He also stressed that the Cabinet Office was continuing to “manage” ministers’ interests, “in line with the ministerial code”. 

Cabinet Office minister Julia Lopez told the Commons on Wednesday: “I hope that it will be of reassurance to members that the appointment to the post of independent adviser on ministerial interests will be announced shortly.”