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10 Downing Street

Ethical standards in government

Ethical standards underpin the working of government and are important for trust in politics and politicians.

Rules that govern how ministers, civil servants and special advisers can operate are set out in codes of conduct and constitutional guides like the cabinet manual, and are reinforced by the rule of law. But some of those rules rely on informal conventions and expectations of behaviour. They are also reliant on different enforcement mechanisms, from statutory bodies like the Civil Service Commission to less formal roles like the prime minister’s independent adviser on ministerial interests. 

Given the many ethical scandals of recent years, the government needs to strengthen the rules around how ministers and civil servants are expected to behave, and put in place better ways of enforcing these rules.

Rebuilding trust in public life

45% of people think standards of behaviour in government have got worse since the election in 2019. The next government should start the difficult process of showing the British public that the institutions on which we all rely can be trusted.

Read the report
The door at No. 10 Downing Street.

The benefits of transparency

Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer should commit to a more transparent approach to government if they win the next general election. But why is being more open good for government?

The front cover of the IfG's report, The benefits of transparency

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