The report finds that Rishi Sunak wrongly “wiped clean” of Braverman’s standard rules violation

Suella Braverman’s return as Home Secretary just six days after she resigned over leaking classified documents has set a “dangerous precedent” that is eroding confidence in the government’s integrity, according to a cross-party parliamentary report.

Rishi Sunak should not have been able to “wipe clean” a violation of ministerial standards that earned a “significant” absence from office, the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) said.

The committee said the new ethics adviser the prime minister has promised to appoint should not be prevented from investigating Ms Braverman’s actions and recommending further sanctions.

She slammed Mr Sunak’s position as “unsatisfactory” that the new adviser could not investigate historic breaches among previous prime ministers.

The decision would undermine the adviser’s independence and call into question the power to launch inquiries granted to Lord Geidt as a condition of taking up the post under Boris Johnson, the committee said.

And it would mean it would be impossible to complete the probe into alleged racist remarks made about Minister Nus Ghani, which was suspended after Lord Geidt, second of Johnson’s ethics advisers, resigned in June.

With no replacement for Geidt named nearly six months after his resignation, the committee called for legislation making it a legal duty for the prime minister to appoint an ethics adviser and confirm the official’s independence to open investigations, including historic allegations.

And they called for the creation of legal sanctions against ministers and senior officials who break rules by exploiting Whitehall’s “revolving door” to lucrative private sector jobs.

The report also called for more clarity from the government on the penalties ministers can face for various breaches of the ministerial code of conduct, after Mr Johnson controversially ended the convention that all breaches should result in resignation.

“If the introduction of graduated sanctions in the Ministerial Code is to be effective, it cannot be used as a means of avoiding significant sanctions for serious violations,” the committee said.

Without a clear explanation of how severely different violations would be punished, “there is a suspicion that political expediency will be the sole determinant of the level of the sanction,” they said.

And they warned: “The reappointment of the Home Secretary sets a dangerous precedent.

“The leak of restricted material deserves a significant sanction under the new graduated sanctions regime introduced in May, including resignation and a significant term in office.

“A subsequent change of prime minister should not clean things up and allow for rehabilitation and a return to ministerial post in less time.

“To allow this to happen does not inspire confidence in the integrity of government, nor does it provide much incentive for correct behavior in the future.”

The report was prompted by standards concerns in the wake of David Cameron’s stake in failed financial services firm Greensill, Mr Johnson’s handling of Partygate and the resignation of two ethics advisers.

PACAC Conservative leader William Wragg said: “It is the government’s responsibility to ensure that a robust and effective system is put in place to maintain standards in public life, with appropriate sanctions for those who break the rules.

“Our research found that while in the UK we have a sophisticated landscape of ethics officers to uphold standards in public life, they lack the power to enforce the rules.

“The Prime Minister is rightly the ultimate arbiter of the rules in our system. We urge him to show leadership and give legal status to all ethics monitors. This will provide a better deterrent to those who may be tempted to act inappropriately and further protect the integrity of our public life.”

Labor Deputy Leader Angela Rayner said: “The buck rests with the Prime Minister, but for all the promises of integrity, Rishi Sunak clearly has no plan to restore standards in public life after years of filth and scandal.

“Rather than appointing a truly independent ethics watchdog with real teeth, he shows every sign of trying to preserve the rotten ethics regime of his disgraced predecessors.”

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