Over the past few years, the list of abuses of power by governments past and present has become clear. Ministers have given away lucrative contracts to friends and donors, repeatedly broken the code that is meant to govern them, and transgressed the law on several occasions.
This compendium is a resource to track their misconduct. If you have any suggestions of what we could add, email us at [email protected] with your suggestion and a source for evidence to support it.
We have very strict criteria for what merits a place on this list, which is:
- Potential or confirmed breaches of the ministerial code while minister.
- Potentially of confirmed breaches of the law while minister.
The ministers we believe may have broken the code are listed below. Click on the names to find out what they did or are alleged to have done:
Kemi Badenoch is Secretary of State for International Trade and Equalities Minister
Badenoch has potentially broken the code once
Kemi Badenoch was accused last year of breaking the ministerial code while serving as equalities minister. Badenoch leaked private correspondence with journalist Nadine White, lashing out at the reporter on Twitter and describing her as “creepy”. In the process, she exposed White to online abuse, and the journalist had to lock their Twitter account to avoid further attacks. Labour MP Marsha de Cordova accused Badenoch of acting in an unprofessional manner, and disclosing private information not in the public interest, thus breaching the code.
James Cleverly is Secretary of State for the Home Department
Cleverly has allegedly broken the ministerial code once
James Cleverly was accused last June when serving as Middle East minister of breaching the ministerial code in failing to answer parliamentary questions in relation to arms sales to Israel. Reporting by Declassified UK revealed that Cleverly had obfuscated answers to 14 questions in a short span of time, falling short of the requirement for ministers to “be as open as possible with parliament”.
Michael Gove is Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities
Gove has potentially broken the ministerial code twice
It has been revealed that Michael Gove misused covid emergency funds to conduct polling on the Union. Whether or not this broke the law, it certainly breached the ministerial code, which dictates that government resources should not be used for campaigning uses.
Gove has broken the law as minister once
In June 2021, the high court ruled that Gove broke the law by awarding a contract to associates at the PR company Public First.
Chris Heaton-Harris is Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Heaton-Harris has potentially broken the code once
While acting as a junior Brexit minister, Chris Heaton-Harris was accused of breaching the ministerial code by former Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake. Brake alleged that, in meeting with representatives from Spanish far-right party Vox without reporting this through the proper channels, Heaton-Harris had failed to live up to the transparency standards set in the code.
Jeremy Hunt is Chancellor of the Exchequer
Hunt has potentially broken the code three times
When acting as Theresa May’s health secretary, Jeremy Hunt was told by then parliamentary standards commissioner Kathryn Stone that he had broken the ministerial code twice over issues with the purchase of luxury flats. Hunt had registered his interest in seven flats bought by him and his wife a day late, and failed to report his purchase of the flats. Both of these registered as separate breaches of the code, according to Stone.
In 2012, David Cameron stopped his advisor on the ministerial code, Sir Alex Allan, from investigating Hunt over a potential breach related to the Leveson Inquiry. Hunt’s chief advisor, Adam Smith, had resigned over having had contact with NewsCorp during their takeover of BSkyB, while Hunt himself was culture secretary. Leaked information suggested that Smith had provided inside information to NewsCorp during this period. It was not known whether Hunt himself had engaged in this behaviour as well.
Alister Jack is Secretary of State for Scotland
Jack has potentially breached the ministerial code once
Alister Jack used the gov.uk website to promote a Daily Mail article he’d written. The article praised Douglass Ross and criticised the Scottish National Party in government. Publishing this on a government website potentially broke the code, in using government property for party political purposes.
Robert Jenrick is Minister of State for Immigration
Jenrick has potentially breached the ministerial code once
Robert Jenrick may have broken the ministerial code in leaving his ministerial briefcase unattended on a train. The code entrusts ministers with maintaining the security of government business, which Jenrick allegedly did.
As Boris Johnson’s housing secretary, Robert Jenrick granted planning permission for a £1bn property development by Conservative donor Richard Desmond. In overruling a local planning inspector, Jenrick saved Desmond £40mn, which he would have had to pay in community levies, which are used to improve local infrastructure. Jenrick helped a Conservative donor avoid paying tax that would have gone directly to local communities. This is a clear case of conflict of interests, which could normally be considered a breach of the ministerial code.
Johnny Mercer of Minister of State for Veterans' Affairs
Mercer has potentially breached the ministerial code once
Johnny Mercer is back in office for the third time as minister of state for veterans’ affairs. In his first stint in the role, he was accused of leaking information in order to pass the Overseas Operations Act, which provided legal protections for soldiers accused of committing war crimes overseas. If true, this would represent a serious breach of the code, which requires ministers to obtain permission from the prime minister before disclosing sensitive policy matters.
Andrew Mitchell is Minister of State for Development
Mitchell has potentially breached the ministerial code once
While David Cameron’s international development secretary, Andrew Mitchell was accused of breaking the ministerial code to get a ban lifted on a prominent cocoa dealer who had donated to Mitchell’s parliamentary office. Mitchell had allegedly been asked for help by Anthony Ward, described as the ‘real-life Willy Wonka’, after his firm, Armajaro Holdings, was banned from trading after allegations that one of their contractors had been involved in illegal smuggling. Armajaro donated £40,000 to Mitchell’s parliamentary office between August 2006 and December 2009. As a result, Mitchell can be credibly accused of having had a conflict of interest in the affair.
Mel Stride is Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
Stride has potentially breached the code four times
Rishi Sunak is Prime Minister
Sunak has potentially breached the ministerial code at least ten times
Sunak breached the ministerial code in misleading parliament about the Downing Street parties. On 7 December 2021, he told Labour MP Karl Turner that he had not attended any parties, but the news that he has been fined for attending parties during the December 2020 lockdown reveals that this was untruthful.
Labour Party deputy leader Angela Rayner outlined a series of potential breaches of the ministerial code which Sunak may have made as a minister, in failing to be completely open about his financial interests, in a letter to Boris Johnson. There were five alleged breaches in total for failing to declare:
- His spouse’s non-dom status
- His US Green Card
- His ‘blind management arrangements’ for a portfolio of financial investments
- The significant shares his spouse held in InfoSys
- The numerous other business interests his spouse holds.
Sunak’s actions in the Greensill scandal have raised the suspicion of a conflict of interest. The chancellor texted his former boss, David Cameron, saying that he would “push the team” at the Treasury to find a way to help Cameron’s then employer, Greensill Capital, access government-backed covid loans.
Sunak’s use of the levelling-up fund blurred the line between his role as chancellor and MP. Although his constituency, Richmond, is very affluent, it was made a top priority location for the fund, while less well-off areas like Barnsley and Sheffield were ignored.
Rishi Sunak was found to have inadvertently broken the ministerial code in failing to declare his wife’s shares in a childcare agency in advance of his government’s budget. Since the budget boosted the agency, there was evidence of a conflict of interest.
He has broken the law twice as minister
On 12 April 2022, it was announced that Sunak was fined by the Metropolitan Police for hosting parties during the Christmas 2020 lockdown. This confirms that he breached the law at least once during this period.
On 20 January 2023, Lancashire Police issued Rishi Sunak with a fine for failing to wear a seatbelt in a moving vehicle. The incident was reported after Sunak was filmed for a social media video advertising the new beneficiaries of the levelling-up fund.
Ben Wallace is Secretary of State for Defence
Wallace has allegedly breached the ministerial code once
Ben Wallace, was accused by the media organisation Tortoise of personally intervening as defence secretary to ensure that a £5bn National Cyber Force HQ was situated on the border of his constituency. If true, then Wallace would have breached the code in failing to delineate his roles as local MP and minister.