Public Law Semester 1 Assessment

In this assignment I am going to discuss the agreements that are in place to regulate the work of government ministers. I am also going to look at whether the ministerial code that is in place is an effective way to ensure that the work that government ministers do is regulated and that they are maintaining the public’s trust in the work that they do. I will then look at two examples of ministerial conduct from 2010 to present day to see if government ministers follow the code to make my conclusion of whether the code is an ineffective way of ensuring government ministers will be accountable for their actions.

Ministerial conduct and responsibilities refers to the idea that ministers have a set of standards to which they must adhere. They are expected to exemplify the highest standards of conduct, as they are both elected representatives and ministers of the Crown with a high level of responsibility for running the nation’s affairs. There are two types of ministerial responsibility, the first is collective ministerial responsibility and the second is individual responsibility.

Collective responsibility is the cabinet have to present an united front and all agree on the same decisions, if members can not agree on the same decisions then members would have to resign. Individual responsibility is when individuals make the decisions for their own department, and they are responsible for all decisions made. They are expected to accept responsibility for any failure in administration, any injustice to an individual or any aspect of policy, which may be criticised in parliament, whether personally or not.

Individual ministerial responsibility also requires them to behave appropriately in their personal life and also be competent. The Ministerial code is a code was put in place among other things to react to the observations of the public eye and to ensure the public have trust in the government who are in cabinet at the time. The first code was released in 1992; the codes have been renewed and adapted since then. The term “ministerial code” came in 1997 when Tony Blair released his conduct. The latest set of rules came in 2015 after the general election.

The code has one annex and ten sections. Each section addresses a different principle. One example of a section is section 9, which is about the ministers in parliament. The main principle in this section is that the most important announcement should be made in the first instance when parliament is in session. This section also states that ministers should not make statements in parliament without approval from the prime minister. It also states that any other minister or MP that shall be mentioned should be notified before they are mentioned.

The annex describes the seven principles of public life. The committees on standards in public life published these in 1995. These contain rules that benefit the public interest. These include: Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty and Leadership[1]. Section 1. 2 of the code states “The Ministerial Code should be read against the background of the overarching duty on Ministers to comply with the law and to protect the integrity of public life” 1 this means that whatever decisions that government ministers make it has to comply to the law.

In 2015 when the recent update of the ministerial code was released there was a lot of controversy that senior lawyers expressed. The new ministerial code overlooks a previous reference to ministers being bound by international law. Senior lawyers claim that this could affect the UK’s international position and relationship with other states. [2] Ministers must ensure they adhere to the ministerial code. If ministers do not adhere to the code, it will often lead to them being asked to resign.

For this reason both Liam Fox (Defence) and David Laws (Assistant Secretary at the Treasury) had to resign; David Blunkett and Peter Mandelson resigned from cabinet due to breeches of the ministerial code. [3] There have been also many incidents when government ministers have not followed the ministerial code, and have had action taken against them I will now look at two examples of ministerial conduct from the period 2010 to the present day. In June 2014 it was reported that David Cameron was risking a cover up when handling the political row between two senior cabinet ministers, Theresa May and Michael Gove.

a full enquiry was to be launched into the Home Secretary as there was clear evidence that’s she may have broken the code. David Cameron took an immediate response, and ordered a quick review into the argument between the two ministers about the "Trojan horse" comments over the Islamic extremism in Birmingham. Theresa may's special advisor, was forced to resign for releasing a letter that criticised Michael Gove. He was then told to apologise to Mr Cameron and an intelligence officer, Mr Farr. There was enough evidence to run a full investigation on Mrs May, as she appeared to be in breach of section 2.

1 of the ministerial code which says "the privacy of opinions expressed in cabinet and ministerial committees including in correspondence, should be maintained "1 . It was also believed that Mrs May would also have to look at section 2. 3 of the code which states "the responsibility for the management and conduct, of special advisors, including discipline, rests with the minister who made the appointment". Although there was enough evidence for a full investigation, mr cameron said that he "conclusively decided that the home secretary did not break the ministerial code and on what grounds in light of the evidence.

" Mr Dugher then said "without full release of the review and disclosure of how you reached your decision, this will be considered a cover up. "[4] This information about Theresa May's 'mishandled row' suggests a lot about the conventions that are regulating ministerial conduct. The first thing that is suggests to us that the ministerial code is very complex and does not really explain what it covers. by this I mean that the ministerial code is very wide and therefore there is a lot of room for 'cover ups'. Also I think that it is unfair to expect ministers to know exactly what is going on in their department.

this is because nowadays the size of modern government departments, can make it very hard for ministers to know exactly what is going on and everything that they have to follow and therefore can often lead to ministers breaking the ministerial code without even knowing it. Although in the case of Theresa May I think that she knew exactly what was going on as she initiated the controversy with Mr Gove. Another example of ministerial conduct I am going to look at is when government minister Alun Davies was 'clearly' breaching the ministerial code back in July 2014.

Mr Davies was said to be in a 'clear' breach of the code after he intervened in a planning process on a racetrack in Blaenau Gwent. Mr Davies made a formal apology , which he recognised he 'did not exercise sufficient care to maintain a clear perception' of the separation of the ministerial roles. [5] Mr Davies was previously called to resign if he was found out to be in breach of the code, and was told to do the honourable thing. When Mr Davies found out the plans for the Circuit of Wales race circuit in Ebbw Vale, he wrote to the governments independent environmental body Natural resources Wales criticizing the plans.

The investigation of whether or not he was breaching the ministerial code came after the welsh government was unsure whether he was voicing concerns as a local AM or as a minister. It was decide that Mr Davies was not a decision making minister in this matter and therefore it was not took any further. The issue was addressed with Mr Davies directly and he apologised. Mr Davies said 'I have already apologised to the first minister and would like to do so again for the public record', my intentions was to promote the interests of my constituents as faithfully as possible. 

This information about Alun Davies again also suggests a lot about the conventions that are regulating ministerial conduct. Individual Ministerial responsibility requires government ministers to behave appropriately in their own personal life and by Mr. Davies questioning another minister about there decisions I do not feel this is appropriate behavior as a minister. On the other hand the Code also states that government ministers are also meant to act with integrity which I feel that Mr. Davies did as he did act in a honest way to try and stop something that he did not believe would be beneficial for his country.