Breach of Collective Responsibility is now accepted

Back in August 2019 a month after he was selected as the leader of the Conservative Party and therefore had become an unelected Prime Minister, Boris Johnson wrote an introduction to the Governmental Ministerial Code. The text that he formed was used to explain that “The mission of this Government is to deliver Brexit on 31st October for the purpose of uniting and re-energising our whole United Kingdom and making this country the greatest place on earth.” He then went on after a couple of more sentences to set out a very clear set of words about how he as the Prime Minister and his colleagues in the Government should respond:

To fulfil this mission, and win back the trust of the British people, we must uphold the very highest standards of propriety – and this code sets out how we must do so. There must be no bullying and no harassment; no leaking; no breach of collective responsibility. No misuse of taxpayer money and no actual or perceived conflicts of interest. The precious principles of public life enshrined in this document – integrity, objectivity, accountability, transparency, honesty and leadership in the public interest – must be honoured at all times; as must the political impartiality of our much admired civil service. Crucially, there must be no delay – and no misuse of process or procedure by any individual Minister that would seek to stall the collective decisions necessary to deliver Brexit and secure the wider changes needed across our United Kingdom. The time has come to act, to take decisions, and to give strong leadership to change this country for the better. That is what this Government will do.


So yesterday he has re-written his introduction for the Ministerial Code which does not refer to any of this text in the current version. The document can be obtained here. His complete text is

The aftershocks of the gravest pandemic for a century have combined with the biggest war in Europe since 1945 to trigger surging energy prices and growing pressures on families across the country.

This government is more determined than ever to ease those burdens by fulfilling our mission to generate high wage, high skilled jobs that will unite and level up our whole United Kingdom. We will grow the economy to address the cost of living, make our streets safer, fund the NHS to clear the Covid
backlogs and provide leadership in challenging times, including supporting our Ukrainian friends as they defend their freedoms.

But how we deliver for the British people is just as important as what we do. We have a broader duty to use our democratic mandate to the greatest possible effect: innovating, challenging assumptions and striving always to mobilise the power of the state for the benefit of the public.

Thirty years after it was first published, the Ministerial Code continues to fulfil its purpose, guiding my Ministers on how they should act and arrange their affairs. As the Leader of Her Majesty’s Government, my accountability is to Parliament and, via the ballot box, to the British people. We must show every
day that we are worthy of this privilege by keeping our promises and delivering on the priorities of the British people

Now of course the rest of the document which was set out in 2010 remains and there is another significant element that remains in the latest version.

1.3 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. They are expected to observe the Seven Principles of Public Life set out at Annex A, and the following principles of Ministerial conduct:

a. The principle of collective responsibility applies to all Government Ministers;

b. Ministers have a duty to Parliament to account, and be held to account, for the policies, decisions and actions of their departments and agencies;

c. It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister;

d. Ministers should be as open as possible with Parliament and the public, refusing to provide information only when disclosure would not be in the public interest, which should be decided in accordance with the relevant statutes and the Freedom of Information Act 2000;

e. Ministers should similarly require civil servants who give evidence before Parliamentary Committees on 2 their behalf and under their direction to be as helpful as possible in providing accurate, truthful and full information in accordance with the duties and responsibilities of civil servants as set out in the Civil Service Code;

f. Ministers must ensure that no conflict arises, or appears to arise, between their public duties and their private interests;

g. Ministers should not accept any gift or hospitality which might, or might reasonably appear to, compromise their judgement or place them under an improper obligation;

h. Ministers in the House of Commons must keep separate their roles as Minister and constituency Member;

i. Ministers must not use government resources for Party political purposes; and

j. Ministers must uphold the political impartiality of the Civil Service and not ask civil servants to act in any way which would conflict with the Civil Service Code as set out in the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010.

About ianchisnall

I am passionate about the need for public policies to be made accessible to everyone, especially those who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am particularly interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as health services and strategic planning.
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