Boris Johnson advises UK to ‘isolate’ before Christmas period
The dismissal of the ministerial aide came following a short inquiry into the publication of the letter from Tory Chief Whip Mark Spencer. The note sent out to Tory PPSs and vice-chairmen warned they were banned from voting against the Government or endorsing campaigns criticising any policy put out by Downing Street. Mr Spencer pointed out Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s foreword to the Ministerial Code “strictly prohibits ‘leaking’ or any other breaches of trust”.
Despite this stern warning to MPs, the note was still leaked to political gossip website Guido Fawkes on Thursday.
In a surprising twist, it later emerged each letter sent out had been slightly adjusted, in an attempt to determine who was behind a series of leaks.
The letter sent to Mr Lewer, which had its wording slightly changed to make it identifiable, was leaked.
Mr Lewer, who was serving as PPS to Policing Minister Kit Malthouse, pleaded his innocence and suggested the latest leak could have come from his own staff.
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He told Politico Playbook last night: “In nearly 20 years of elected office I have never leaked to the press.”
The leaked letter was dated December 14.
It read: “Dear colleague. It has recently come to my attention that there seems to be a lack of clarity of what is expected of you in your position as Private Parliamentary Secretary or Vice Chair.
“In your role as PPS/VC, you are strictly bound to the conditions clearly set out in the Ministerial Code.
“I would take this opportunity to remind you of the consequences that you will face, should you choose to breach the Code. For your ease, I have highlighted some particularly relevant aspects of the Code below.
“1.3(a) The principle of collective responsibility applies to all Government Ministers.
“3.9 Parliamentary Private Secretaries are expected to support the Government in divisions in the House. No Parliamentary Private Secretary who votes against the Government can retain his or her position.
“3.10 Parliamentary Private Secretaries should not make statements in the House or put Questions on matters affecting the department with which they are concerned.
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“They are not precluded from serving on Select Committees, but they should withdraw from any involvement with inquiries into their appointing Minister’s department, and they should avoid associating themselves with recommendations critical of or embarrassing the Government.
“They should also exercise discretion in any statements outside the House.
The letter concluded: “If you violate any aspect of the Ministerial Code, you will be removed from your position with immediate effect.
“No ‘mitigating circumstances’ will be acknowledged or accepted.”
The letter from the Chief Whip came following a series of embarrassing leaks which have left Mr Johnson furious.
The Prime Minister was enraged in October when plans for a second national lockdown in the fight against coronavirus were leaked to the national press before they had been finalised.
Senior officials have been quizzed by Whitehall security experts as part of a Cabinet Office inquiry to uncover the culprit.
But two months on, the investigation has failed to uncover the person who leaked the information.
Earlier this week, Mr Johnson told MPs the inquiry is still ongoing.
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