Lord Geidt has gone into more detail about why he quit, giving a more robust account of why he resigned as Boris Johnson’s ethics adviser.
In a letter to Constitutional Affairs Select Committee Chair William Wragg, Lord Geidt said he “could not be party to advising on potential law breaking”.
He admitted his resignation letter may have been too cautious.
Writing to Mr Wragg, Lord Geidt clarified that focus on steel tariffs as a reason for his departure by others is a “distraction”.
“Since my letter of resignation was made public yesterday, there has been some confusion about the precise cause of my decision,” he said.
“My letter has been interpreted to suggest that an important issue of principle was limited to some narrow and technical consideration of steel tariffs.
“The cautious language of my letter may have failed adequately to explain the far wider scope of my objection.”
Lord Geidt continued: “Emphasis on the steel tariffs question is a distraction.
“It was simply one example of what might yet constitute deliberate breaches by the United Kingdom of its obligations under international law, given the government’s widely publicised openness to this.”
He concluded by saying that “conscious of my own obligations under the Seven Principles of Public Life (including integrity), I could not be a party to advising on any potential law-breaking”.
Lord Geidt unexpectedly resigned on Wednesday evening in a letter to the prime minister.
Prior to standing down, Lord Geidt had earlier this week admitted that he had considered resigning over Mr Johnson’s response to his partygate fine for breaking COVID-19 rules.
Explaining why he was leaving, Lord Geidt told the prime minister he believed “by a very small margin” that it was possible “to continue credibly as independent adviser” after partygate.
In the letter, Lord Geidt said he had been asked this week to offer a view on “measures which risk a deliberate and purposeful breach of the ministerial code”.
“This request has placed me in an impossible and odious position,” he said.
“The idea that a prime minister might to any degree be in the business of deliberately breaching his own code is an affront.”
Lord Geidt and Boris Johnson’s letters in full
Lord Geidt said that even an intention to breach the ministerial code deliberately “would be to suspend the provisions of the code to suit a political end”.
He added: “This would make a mockery not only of respect for the code but licence the suspension of its provisions in governing the conduct of Her Majesty’s ministers.
“I can have no part in this.”
Mr Johnson said in response that the letter “came as a surprise” after the adviser told him on Monday that he was happy to stay on until the end of the year.
Following Lord Geidt’s departure, Mr Johnson said he will “carefully consider” whether to hire a new ethics adviser.
Lord Geidt’s departure came after his predecessor Sir Alex Allan resigned in 2020. That was described by Labour as a “badge of shame” for the government.
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