Lib Dem Moore accused of breaching ministerial code

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Scottish Secretary of State Michael Moore has been accused of breaking the ministerial code by using Scotland Office resources for party political purposes.

It is alleged that a Scotland Office Civil Servant issued a party political press release on the Lib Dem MP’s behalf on Wednesday 22nd December. In doing so it is claimed that Mr Moore was in breach of the ministerial code on three counts.

The press release (pictured below) was drafted and sent out in response to an article in the Telegraph that covered the UK coalition’s stance on child benefit.

The allegation that the Lib Dem MP had broken the ministerial code is contained in a letter sent to David Cameron by Tom Watson, MP for West Bromwich East.

The claims follow a recent ‘sting’ on the Lib Dem MP by Telegraph reporters, who recorded Mr Moore saying of his U-turn on tuition fees: “I’ve just done the worst crime a politician can commit”.

The letter of complaint is reproduced here:

Mr David Cameron MP
Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
London
SW1A 2AA

22 December 2010

Dear Mr Cameron,

BREACH OF THE MINISTERIAL CODE

I enclose a copy of a press statement circulated today by Matthew Harvey of the Scotland Office, and the Scotland Office’s Press Office, in which Secretary of State Michael Moore MP gives his reaction to the Daily Telegraph story “Liberal Democrat ministers condemn scrapping of child benefit”.

As you will be aware, paragraph 1.1 of the Ministerial Code clearly states that “Ministers of the Crown are expected to behave in a way that upholds the highest standards of propriety.” In order to comply with this, the Code affirms “Ministers must not use government resources for Party political purposes” and that they “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.”

Moreover, paragraph 6.1 of the Ministerial Code goes into greater detail and clearly states that “facilities provided to Ministers at Government expense to enable them to carry out their official duties should not be used for Party or constituency work”.

The circulating of the attached press release is quite clearly a breach of the Ministerial Code on all three of the counts I have outlined above. Michael Moore’s statement is overtly party political and Scotland Office resources have clearly been used in both its preparation and distribution.

This matter clearly warrants investigation. I would urge you to seek urgent advice from the independent adviser on Ministers’ interests in relation to this clear breach of the Code, and to consult with the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O’Donnell, as part of your discussions.

I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible regarding the outcome of your investigations.

 

Yours sincerely

Tom Watson

Member of Parliament for West Bromwich East

Cc       Sir Gus O’Donnell, Cabinet Secretary