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Independent adviser on ministerial interests

We explore the role of the independent adviser on ministerial interests, who advises the prime minister on the ministerial code.

Rishi Sunak outside Number 10

What is the role of the independent adviser on ministerial interests?

The independent adviser on ministerial interests is appointed by the prime minister to advise the prime minister on the ministerial code. He advises ministers on managing their private interests, so as to avoid any potential or perceived conflicts of interest. He also publishes a ‘List of Ministers’ Interests’ twice a year, setting out the relevant private interests of all government ministers.

When requested by the prime minister the independent adviser also investigates potential breaches of the ministerial code. Following changes negotiated by the outgoing ethics adviser, Lord Geidt, the independent adviser may raise potential breaches with the prime minister, but he must consult the prime minister before he begins investigations, effectively giving the prime minister the right to approve any investigations 

The independent adviser publishes an annual report, setting out the work he has undertaken.[1]

Who is the current independent adviser?

On 22 December, Rishi Sunak appointed Sir Laurie Magnus CBE to be the independent adviser on ministerial interests. His predecessor Lord Geidt resigned on 15 June, stating: "With regret, I feel that it is right that I am resigning from my post as Independent Adviser on Ministers' Interests." Geidt, a former private secretary to the Queen [2], was appointed in April 2021, over five months after his predecessor, Sir Alex Allan, resigned from the role. Sir Alex resigned because the prime minister disagreed with his finding that the home secretary, Priti Patel, had broken the ministerial code by bullying civil servants at the Home Office.

The first task Lord Geidt dealt with was investigating the circumstances around the refurbishment of the Downing Street flat and whether the prime minister should have disclosed more information about how it was paid for. In April 2022, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, asked the prime minister to ask Lord Geidt to look into his declarations of interest, following revelations that his wife had ‘non-domicile’ tax status in the UK.[3]

Independent advisers on ministerial interests, March 2006 to January 2023
Independent advisers on ministerial interests, March 2006 to January 2023

When was the role of the independent adviser first created?

The role was created in 2006 by then prime minister Tony Blair. The first holder was Sir John Bourn, then Comptroller and Auditor General (the head of the National Audit Office). When Gordon Brown became prime minister in 2007, he appointed Sir Philip Mawer as his independent adviser. Sir Philip served until November 2011, when Sir Alex took on the role.[4]

What criticisms have been made of the role?

Various groups, including the Committee on Standards in Public Life[5], the Labour Party[6] and the Institute for Government has called for the independent adviser to be able to initiate his own investigations into potential breaches of the ministerial code, as without this power the role is not sufficiently independent from the prime minister. The Institute has also argued that the adviser should be able to publish the findings of any investigations independently.

When he appointed Lord Geidt the prime minister expressly rejected these recommendations, saying that ‘I cannot and would not wish to abrogate the ultimate responsibility for deciding on an investigation into allegations concerning ministerial misconduct. That vital responsibility is quite properly mine alone’.[7]

In May 2022, the prime minister published an updated ministerial code. [8]  On June 14 Geidt appeared before Parliament's Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee. He resigned the following day.

  1. Cabinet Office, ‘Terms of Reference for the Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests’, HM Government, 28 April 2021
  2. Cabinet Office, ‘The Rt Hon Lord Geidt appointed as Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests’, press release 28 April 2021,
  3.,, 10 April 2022
  4. Maer L and Ryan-White G, ‘The Ministerial Code and the Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests’, House of Commons Library, 2018
  5. Committee on Standards in Public Life, ‘Lord Evans' Letter to the Prime Minister on the Independent Adviser on Ministers' Interests, 15 April 2021;,, 15 April 2021
  6. Gayle D, ‘Labour calls for wholly independent adviser amid row over PM’s flat’,, 29 April 2021
  7. Committee on Standards in Public Life, ‘The Prime Minister's Letter to Lord Evans, 28 April 2021’,, 28 April 2021


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