Politics

A former ethics adviser to Boris Johnson broke the rules in the House of Lords by “assisting an outside organisation in influencing” government officials at the Ministry of Defence, a watchdog has ruled.

A report from the Lords Commissioner for Standards said Lord Geidt – who advised the former prime minister between April 2021 until he quit in June 2022 – gave introductory remarks at a meeting in May 2021 between the officials and Theia Group Inc, which employed him as an adviser.

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Despite claims from the peer that his only role had been to make sure the firm’s contact with the department “were conducted properly” and that he had been hired to advise them due to his previous experience, rather than his seat in the Lords, the commissioner said he had gone against a rule stopping peers providing “parliamentary services” in return for payment.

Lord Geidt appealed against the decision, but it was dismissed by the Lords Conduct Committee, which said while they accepted the peer “sought at all times to behave honourably and to comply with the rules”, he had still broken them.

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The committee said the breach was “an oversight” and limited to a one-off meeting, and as such gave Lord Geidt the most minor of sanctions available – recommending his write a letter of apology to the chair of the committee.

However, a source familiar with the matter said they were “mystified” by the decision, adding: “The lack of clarity about what constitutes parliamentary services is concerning.”

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A spokesperson for Lord Geidt said: “The report acknowledges that Lord Geidt acted honourably in his evident desire to comply with the rules at all times.

“Despite that, the commissioner recommended the mildest sanction of writing a letter of apology to the committee’s chair for the ‘oversight’, which he has duly done.

“Lord Geidt has a formidable record of public service, including as private secretary to Queen Elizabeth and as the independent adviser on ministers’ interests.”

The committee also issued another ruling on Wednesday, saying former Labour MP Lord Mann had breached rules twice over his work as the government’s adviser on antisemitism.

They agreed with an earlier ruling from the standards commissioner that the peer had failed to record support from the Antisemitism Policy Trust in his register of interests, and had used his parliamentary office for government work.

However, they expressed “sympathy” with Lord Mann as the government had “assumed” he could carry out his duties in parliament, so again he was only told to write a letter of apology.

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