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Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee

Oral evidence: Post-appointment Hearing - Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests, HC 316

Thursday 23 February 2023

Ordered by the House of Commons to be published on 23 February 2023.

Watch the meeting 

Members present: Mr William Wragg (Chair); Ronnie Cowan; Jo Gideon; John McDonnell; Tom Randall; Lloyd Russell-Moyle.

Questions 1 - 52


I: Sir Laurie Magnus, Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests.


Examination of witness

Witness: Sir Laurie Magnus.

Q1                Chair: Good morning and welcome to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee. Today the Committee is holding a one-off session on the work of the Independent Adviser on MinistersInterests. While this post does not feature on the list of formal pre-appointment hearings, as it is a direct appointment by the Prime Minister the Committee is keen to continue the precedent established with both Sir Alex Allan and Lord Geidt in giving the postholder the opportunity to set out their views and intentions for the role early on in their term.

We are joined this morning by Sir Laurie Magnus, Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests since December of last year. Sir Laurie, good morning; could you briefly introduce yourself for the record?

Sir Laurie Magnus: Good morning. It is very good to be here. I am the Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests.

Q2                Chair: A straightforward question to begin with: did you apply for the role?

Sir Laurie Magnus: No.

Q3                Chair: I presume you were asked; can I ask by whom?

Sir Laurie Magnus: I was asked whether I would let my name go forward and I assumed at the time that there was a comprehensive process proceeding, and I understood that I was part of a process.

Q4                Chair: Your assumption was that you would be part of an application process that would receive other applications. Not to show you any disrespect so early on in our session, but do you think the role of the independent adviser would be strengthened if you had been appointed following a more open and transparent process?

Sir Laurie Magnus: I am very conscious of your recommendation that there should be a full public appointments process. I obviously went through the process I went through and I am where I am. I think it is important to say that I did have three interviews. Most public appointments I think involve just one interview. I went through that and certainly in those interviews, as far as I was concerned, I was being vetted. I was being asked questions about why I wanted the role, my capability, and obviously I also wanted to do some due diligence as well.

Q5                Chair: What discussions did you have about the role before accepting the appointment and with whom?

Sir Laurie Magnus: The discussions were with representatives of the Cabinet Office, representatives of No. 10, and ultimately with the Prime Minister. The discussions were very much to establish my motivation but also I wanted to understand the powers I would have. Most importantly, if you are an adviserand I have been an adviser to various businesses over the years and sat on boardsyou have to be able to have an open relationship with the person you are advising or the organisation you are advising. I wanted to be absolutely clear that I would be able to have that open relationship, to be able to effectively speak truth unto power. My conclusion was that the Prime Minister and those around him would welcome that open advice.

Q6                Chair: You spent your professional career in banking and financial services. How do you feel that that background prepared you for a high-profile public service role such as this?

Sir Laurie Magnus: This is much more high profile but the banking and financial services sectormy area of itwas very much involved in advising businesses in the regulated space, insurance companies and fund management companies. That role involves having some quite difficult conversations and being able to advise people not to do things as well as to do things. A lot of these companies are listed companies, so in the public arena with reputations of their own to protect.

Q7                Chair: On that theme, how would you approach a situation where you had to provideif I can so phrase ita significant pushback to politicians at the highest level? You have mentioned some experience but might you give us some examples of where in your current role you will be saying, “No, Minister, as opposed to, “Yes, Minister?

Sir Laurie Magnus: I have only been in this role for two months and it would be difficult to give you a specific example. But I am very confident that if I needed to do that, that is what I would do.

Q8                Chair: You do not have to use personalities or identify them, but in your professional career did you have any difficult conversations that you think translate into this field?

Sir Laurie Magnus: I have had difficult conversations. I have told people that they have to resign. I have had difficult personal conversations. It is never comfortable but I am perfectly prepared to face up to that, if necessary.

Q9                Chair: You mentioned that you spoke with the Prime Minister before your appointment. Might I ask about the nature of that conversation? Did you ask for any assurance or guarantees in relation to your role?

Sir Laurie Magnus: I cannot go into the detail but I came away from the conversation absolutely confident that I could provide open advice and I was confident that he would welcome that.

Q10            Chair: Did you have any input into the drafting of the terms of reference for the role? Did you suggest any changes to the terms of reference as they applied to Lord Geidt when he was in post?

Sir Laurie Magnus: No; I accepted the terms of reference as they had been amended just before Lord Geidt resigned. Within those amended terms of reference I can be consulted on changes, and I think I have the ability to suggest changes as well.

Chair: We are going to explain that more fully as we go through the session but, for the moment, thank you.

Q11            Ronnie Cowan: You mentioned that you had a discussion with the Prime Minister before accepting the role. Did you talk to Lord Geidt or Alex Allan? They had both resigned from the role and they might have had some input into it.

Sir Laurie Magnus: I did not talk to them before I accepted the role because I was concerned about confidentiality, but I did talk to them both afterwards.

Ronnie Cowan: And you stayed on.

Sir Laurie Magnus: I have stayed on.

Q12            Jo Gideon: The role of independent adviser has become much more high profile and controversial in this Parliament. To what extent do you propose to engage with the media and with this Committee directly?

Sir Laurie Magnus: I welcome being able to come here today to talk to you. I think that is part of the job and I hope that you would feel able to call me back as and when you felt it was necessary.

Having read your report in December, I think we share the objective of trying to support high standards in public life. That is why I am here. I believe in it. I believe in the Prime Minister’s commitment to it. I think you all share that as well. I very much welcome that and we need to support each other.

Q13            Jo Gideon: Given the circumstances under which the last two independent advisers left the role, how concerned are you about public confidence and the integrity of the role? How do you propose to address that?

Sir Laurie Magnus: Obviously there is a lot of concern about that, and that is why I think it is important to come here and within the constraints be as transparent as possible about the challenges. My intention is to bring regularity into the process. The first thing I need to do is assure the publication of Ministers’ interests, which was last published in May last year. I want to try to do that as quickly as I can.

There is an investigation that I need to conclude, which I have taken over from Lord Geidt and which has been somewhat in abeyance since he resigned. I want to bring that to a conclusion.

Then there is my annual report, which I will produce in May. I hope in that to include some reflections, having taken stock of the role and possibly some of the things that I think might be helpful. In particular, I think there is a need for greater rigour in monitoring Ministers’ interests and in the way that they are reported to me.

Q14            Ronnie Cowan: What is your understanding of the Prime Minister’s role in authorising investigations?

Sir Laurie Magnus: The Prime Minister can and does initiate investigations, and that is what happened in the case of Nadhim Zahawi. Very importantly, however, I can recommend to the Prime Minister that there should be an investigation. One would normally expect that he would agree to that unless there was a public interest reason for not doing so.

Q15            Ronnie Cowan: How does it come about that you initiate an investigation? Would Ministers report themselves to you?

Sir Laurie Magnus: I suppose that might be a way it happens, but it is more likely that there is an allegation of a breach of the Ministerial Code and that, working with my officials in the Cabinet Office and with the propriety and ethics team, we work out that this is something that should be investigated.

Q16            Ronnie Cowan: Under what criteria or factors?

Sir Laurie Magnus: It is quite difficult to answer that. You have to look at this case by case, but it would be allegations and whether or not they potentially have substance. One would have to be careful about frivolous allegations. They would have to have substance because there is a lot of work involved in going into an allegation, but the criteria would have to be case by case.

Q17            Ronnie Cowan: What about an investigation into the Prime Minister himself, then? I have a quote here from Lord Geidtit is a bit lengthy, but I think it is appropriate. Lord Geidt said,In the present circumstances, I have attempted to avoid the independent adviser offering advice to a Prime Minister about a Prime Minister’s obligations under his own Ministerial Code. If a Prime Minister’s judgment is that there is nothing to investigate or no case to answer, he would be bound to reject any such advice, thus forcing the resignation of the independent adviser. Do you agree with that?

Sir Laurie Magnus: You touched on that in your latest report. Obviously it becomes a very difficult area if the independent adviser to the Prime Minister, providing impartial advice to the Prime Minister, is asked to investigate an allegation of breach by the Prime Minister. I think it is unlikely. I hope that that would not happen in my case, with this Prime Minister, but if it did I would have to react accordingly.

I think what you are getting at is what happens if I were to say that there was a breach and then what would happen. Of course, the sanction is the Prime Minister’s sanction of himself, which is, as Lord Geidt said, somewhat of a strange lacuna.

Q18            Ronnie Cowan: I had to look that word upJohn Major used itso I now know what lacuna means. I had to Google it.

It must restrict you in thinking, “I want the Prime Minister to be investigated about this, if you feel your job is in the balance and he turns around and says, “No, I am not investigating that.

Sir Laurie Magnus: What you are trying to get me to do possibly is to say if that happened, what would be the circumstances in which I would resign.

Ronnie Cowan: I want to know the circumstances under which you would initiate an investigation into the Prime Minister.

Sir Laurie Magnus: It is hypothetical and it would have to be some serious allegation of breach of a code. I think it is unlikely, but obviously you can never say never.

Q19            Ronnie Cowan: The latest version of the Ministerial Code says that the Prime Minister may intervene to prevent an investigation by the independent adviser only on public interest groundstalking of lacunae. Have you discussed what sort of things would be in that scope?

Sir Laurie Magnus: No, I have not. If I wanted to conduct an investigation of a Minister I think it is unlikely that the Prime Minister would withhold consent to its proceeding.

Ronnie Cowan: There is no criteria as to what public interest actually means

Sir Laurie Magnus: Going slightly off piste, if there was some security concern about a Minister—maybe they were spying or something like thatthat would be, I suspect, a public interest reason for not pursuing an allegation of breach of a code for some other reason. I think we are getting into the hypothetical and I have to look at this case by case.

Chair: I think the issue with going into hypotheticals is that some of the instances that occurred previously, which your predecessors were tasked with advising on, we would have deemed hypothetical before they happened. We therefore have to test it almost to destruction this morning.

Sir Laurie Magnus: Understood.

Q20            Ronnie Cowan: If the Prime Ministerial consent for an inquiry that you considered appropriate and necessary was not forthcoming, what would your action be?

Sir Laurie Magnus: Sorry?

Ronnie Cowan: I know it is hypothetical again, but everything is hypothetical until it happens. If the Prime Ministerial consent for an inquiry that you considered appropriate and necessary was not forthcoming, what would your response be?

Sir Laurie Magnus: The first thing that happens, if that does happen, is that the reasons for the inquiry not happening are published. That is an important defence, because that comes into the public arena, you become aware of it and you would be asking questions about it. I think that is a good defence.

Ronnie Cowan: That you believe this inquiry is necessary.

Sir Laurie Magnus: Yes, and if I believe an inquiry is necessary, and in the very limited circumstancesI do not believe it is likely that the Prime Minister would stand in the way of my recommendation that an inquiry should happen unless there was a very good reason, which would be a public interest reason; you can only speculate what that might bethe reasons would be published.

Q21            Ronnie Cowan: Do you think public confidence would have been better improved by removing the Prime Minister’s involvement in the initiation of inquiries entirely?

Sir Laurie Magnus: I think that is a question slightly above my pay grade, frankly.

Ronnie Cowan: You would have to ask the Prime Minister.

Sir Laurie Magnus: The Ministerial Code is the Prime Minister’s code. It is his code of conduct. He is responsible for appointing Ministers. I am his adviser. I do not see practically how you could remove the Prime Minister from that type of exercise without significantly changing the constitution of this country.

Q22            Ronnie Cowan: This is about public confidence in what is happening behind closed doors. If the public’s perception is that the Prime Minister has complete control over what is investigated and the outcomes of any investigation, then it is not really an inquiry, is it?

Sir Laurie Magnus: I do not think it is behind closed doors. Obviously there is a discussion with the Prime Minister and officials that is confidential, but if I want to initiate an inquiry and that is refused then the reasons have to be published. I think that is a very strong position to be in.

Q23            Ronnie Cowan: Can you conduct an investigation into a former Minister for a suspected breach of the Ministerial Code while they were in office?

Sir Laurie Magnus: I can only conduct investigations for incumbent Ministers, not for previous Ministers.

Q24            Tom Randall: The Cabinet Manual emphasises that the responsibility for disclosures is for the Minister; it is not the responsibility of officials to prompt such disclosures. Do you think there are any alternatives to relying on the disclosure of relevant information by Ministers? Could the role of the independent adviser be more proactive and inquisitorial?

Sir Laurie Magnus: The code is very clear: ultimately, the responsibility to identify potential areas of conflict rests with Ministers. They will obviously discuss that with the permanent secretary in the relevant Department. Where they want advice I am available to provide it and can do so. That is important. It is the way to potentially mitigate conflicts or potential conflicts or perceived potential conflicts.


What I think you are getting at is whether some sort of system of due diligence could be applied. There would need to be a massive change to the system for that, and I think the question is again slightly above my pay grade, because you are talking about democratically elected politicians being investigated or checked out. I think you have to rely on their honesty, their compliance with the seven principles of public life and their recognising that if they are to have the privilege of a ministerial position, they have to comply with the expected standards.

Q25            Tom Randall: A slightly cynical view would be that that relies on the Minister being a good chap and engaging with that process. Do you think that affects in any way the confidence that you can have to advise a Prime Minister if it is also relying on Ministers being good chaps and well-behaved? Or is it just the nature of the—

Sir Laurie Magnus: I think you are right. You are relying on the good-chap approach, and this is where the message, the culture and the tone set from the top are so important.

In my obviously limited experience in Government, but in my experience within the organisations I have been involved withcharities, businesses and Historic Englandthe tone from the top is important in setting the culture of how other senior members of a leadership team behave. You can write every rule in the book but it is that moral compass and the tone set from the top that is important.

I draw great comfort from the Prime Minister’s words that he wants his Government to be professional and accountable and have integrity at all levels. I think that is an important reinforcement of the importance of the seven principles of public life.

Q26            John McDonnell: Good luck with the job.

Sir Laurie Magnus: Thank you.

John McDonnell: You might need it. To follow on from what you have just said, our problem is sometimes when the performance does not match the words. As a previous member of our Committee says, what happens when you have a wrong’un in that position? Our concernsyou can see this, can’t you?are that this is a post that is appointed not through an open and transparent process; that it is appointed by the Prime Minister; and that the initiation of inquiries requires the Prime Minister’s consent, including consent to an inquiry into him or her, whoever is Prime Minister at the time. You can understand our concerns about how one can maintain a balance of accountability in all that.

One of the expressions we have heard before is that the Prime Minister must have trust in the individual. How important for you is maintaining the Prime Minister’s trust in the successful conduct of the role as an independent adviser?

Sir Laurie Magnus: It is very important. You are right. Trust goes both ways. As an adviser and an impartial adviser, you need to be able to absolutely speak the truth to whoever you are advising. It has to be open and the truth can sometimes be what they do not want to hear. That is important. The person receiving the advice needs to be open and receptive to it. You will know people who ignore advice because it is not what they want to hear, and I think it is important to have that trusting relationship. That works both ways.

To be able to have an open discussion in confidence, trust is critical. That is why, coming back, inevitably it has to be the Prime Minister’s appointment, because you go through all the processes. I went through three interviews, and I completely recognise what you said about having an open and full public appointments process, but ultimately the Prime Minister has to feel confident that the independent adviser is somebody who will give totally impartial advice.

Q27            John McDonnell: In your discussions with the Prime Minister so far, has he completely comprehended your understanding of what that trust meansthat it is a two-way process?

Sir Laurie Magnus: Yes.

Q28            John McDonnell: As for trust itself, do you think the Prime Minister’s trust is about having a process that is completely independent and competent, as against trust in the person telling you the right thing?

Sir Laurie Magnus: I think it is not telling the right thing; it is being able to give impartial advice, which may be advice that he or she may not want to hear. I talk about the qualities of leadership, but the mark of a leader is the ability to have people around you who could tell you what you do not necessarily want to know.

Q29            John McDonnell: If there were a breakdown in trust, what would you do?

Sir Laurie Magnus: I think that is hypothetical. I do not believe there will be.

John McDonnell: The Chair has said the hypothetical questions we have asked have rapidly become real.

Sir Laurie Magnus: I would have to manage that. I have confidence enough to believe that there would be a lot of conversations before I would get to the stage of saying trust has broken down. Ultimately, it could be that trust is broken either way and it may be that I would be removed in that case.

Q30            John McDonnell: That is not beyond imagination. To ensure that there is confidence in the system, would you publicly explain why trust had broken down at that stage?

Sir Laurie Magnus: Again that is highly hypothetical. I would have to face up to it at the time.

John McDonnell: You can see where we are coming from. We desperately need to reassure people and restore confidence in the practice of government.

Sir Laurie Magnus: Absolutely; I am 100% with you. I think that is why I said earlier that we are all in this together. We are trying to raise public confidence in standards of public life among Ministers, in particular.

Q31            Lloyd Russell-Moyle: Have you had any discussions with the Prime Minister about what kinds of breaches of the code might incur different kinds of sanctions?

Sir Laurie Magnus: No. I know that is something that you, in your report, have said you would like to see, but I have not and I think it is quite difficult to have a graded sanction system for the reason that every case is going to be different.

Q32            Lloyd Russell-Moyle: You are saying that it is case by case and it is not possible to produce a steer on the kind of sanction; would you be able at least to categorise certain breaches or misdemeanours in the sanctions that you would imagine? Or is dismissal on the table for every misdemeanour?

Sir Laurie Magnus: This is a matter obviously for the Prime Minister, but under the terms of reference—

Lloyd Russell-Moyle: But you will advise the Prime Minister on it.

Sir Laurie Magnus: Exactly, and it is difficult to be categoric. It depends on the nature of the misdemeanour.

Q33            Lloyd Russell-Moyle: The difficulty with this is that if each one is bespoke and there is no overriding framework in which people could be dismissed or make an apology or any of the other sanctions that are possiblefor example, the removal of ministerial salary for a period—is it not seen by the public as a weakening of the code rather than a strengthening of it?

Sir Laurie Magnus: There needs to be almost a series of precedents, and I say that guardedly because I very much hope there will not be lots of inquiries. That is why I think it is difficult. It would be bad news for me if there were an enormous number of inquiries, and I hope that there will not be, but without that I think it is quite difficult to have precedence based on case studies, which is why I think you have to look at this on each case as it arises.

Q34            Lloyd Russell-Moyle: In the interregnum between us getting a load of cases—

Sir Laurie Magnus: Let’s hope we do not.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle: I did not suggest what period of time those cases would come up in, but say over the next 20 years we build up a set of cases and precedents, how can you or what will you be doing to reassure the public in the meantime that your recommendations for different sanctions will be done fairly rather than because of anything else?

Sir Laurie Magnus: My appointment is only for five years of course, so it may be my successor who has a better position on this but, at present, there is not enough of a precedence to be able to do anything other than recognise that each case is going to look at the Ministerial Code, which is taken very seriously, and the seven principles of public life. I hope the Prime Minister’s commitment to professionalism, integrity and accountability at all levels of Government reinforces how important is the measurement of Ministers’ actions against their adherence to the Ministerial Code and the seven principles of public life.

Q35            Lloyd Russell-Moyle: You see your role therefore as almost re-basing the office in terms of precedent. The role has existed and there is some precedent on not necessarily the level of sanctions but some of these things. You seem to be suggesting that in five years you will have re-established the public’s trust. Is that an acceptance that maybe it is not quite there as it should be at the moment?

Sir Laurie Magnus: Public perception is a concern that you would share with the Committee on Standards in Public Life and, indeed, the Prime Minister. The Committee on Standards in Public Life has produced quite a lot of statistics through opinion polls that they have conducted on how there has been a deterioration of public trust.

Q36            Lloyd Russell-Moyle: Do you see your role as not only advising the Prime Minister but helping to rebuild that public trust?

Sir Laurie Magnus: I think we are all in it together. I have a small part to play, working with you and the Committee on Standards in Public Life, and with the other parliamentary standards commissioners and so on. This is an important objective.

Q37            John McDonnell: One point of detail. When you recommend an inquiry to the Prime Minister and he or she rejects that recommendation, they are required to publish reasons. If you recommend a sanction and the Prime Minister rejects that sanction, will the Prime Minister be expected to publish the reasons why?

Sir Laurie Magnus: I think the answer is no.

Q38            John McDonnell: I do not want to put you on the spot, but do you think that should apply? Or do you think it has not been considered so far?

Sir Laurie Magnus: It rather depends on whether it is a difference between cutting a salary or a public apology. It has to be case by case.

Q39            Tom Randall: One investigation has already been completed during your term in office; are you confident that you had access to all the relevant information and the co-operation of those involved during the course of that investigation?

Sir Laurie Magnus: Yes. First, I had the co-operation of Mr Zahawi; one should put that on record. He authorised access to HMRC, who I was able to speak to. I also had stellar support from the team in the Cabinet Office working for me.

Q40            Tom Randall: You have a small staff now; do you find you have a sufficient number of staff to carry out your role?

Sir Laurie Magnus: They are brilliant in my viewa shout out for them. They have the wider support of members of the propriety and ethics team in the Cabinet Office, and I possibly could go even further than that. I have only been in this job for two months but I have been very pleasantly impressed by the support I have received.

Q41            Tom Randall: On the Zahawi case in particular, what support did you receive from officials when conducting that investigation?

Sir Laurie Magnus: I had full support. It was a swift inquiry and I do not think they are all paid overtime but they certainly worked overtime.

Q42            Tom Randall: As the independent adviser, you now have some powers to initiate inquiries. You have the team, you have that power, but in this case there was an instruction from the Prime Minister to start the investigation. Did you feel it was an investigation that you could not start yourself? Or were there particular reasons why you waited for the Prime Minister to give that instruction?

Sir Laurie Magnus: I received the instruction. If you remember, there was a weekend of press disclosures and all the rest. By the time I received the instruction, I expected that the instruction would be coming. I will put it another way: I thought, I probably will not need to ask for this because it is going to happen,” and it did happen.

Q43            Tom Randall: If a similar set of circumstances were to arise in the future, you might feel confident to initiate an investigation.

Sir Laurie Magnus: Yes. If I felt it necessary to initiate, I would. I have a pretty open line within the Cabinet Office to the propriety and ethics team and also to No. 10.

Q44            Jo Gideon: Your investigation into the former Minister without Portfolio’s tax affairs concluded that not only was he in breach of specific aspects of the Ministerial Code but he had failed to abide by the Nolan principles. In considering your approach to investigations of ministerial conduct, do you consider that compliance with these more general principles is more important than narrow technical compliance with the code?

Sir Laurie Magnus: Both are important. The technical points are critical, particularly disclosing interests and, in this particular case, disclosing the fact of a tax investigation. However, I also think Ministers do need to be exemplars for high standards of propriety in public life, and that is very clearly set out in the Ministerial Code. They need to comply with the Nolan principles.

Q45            Jo Gideon: The report from your investigation makes no mention of the role of officials in advising either the Minister or the Prime Minister. Does that mean you were satisfied that they had provided adequate advice?

Sir Laurie Magnus: You are talking about the basis of advice to the Prime Minister at the time of appointment, and that obviously was not within the remit of my investigation. However, given the fact that the tax investigation was not disclosed on the form—I mean, it was disclosed and then taken off again—officials had no further knowledge beyond what the form said.

Q46            John McDonnell: I want to ask you about one other possible inquiry that might be going onwe obviously need to be careful in our wording on this. When he resigned, Lord Geidt left an inquiry into allegations of islamophobia that were made by Nus Ghani against a ministerial colleague. That inquiry was unfinished. It is reported now that you are investigating the matter. Has the Prime Minister instructed you to do so?

Sir Laurie Magnus: I have just taken it on. He has not instructed it; I have just assumed the instruction.

John McDonnell: You did not need an instruction.

Sir Laurie Magnus: I did not need the instruction and I am working on it.

Q47            John McDonnell: Are you picking up Lord Geidt’s inquiry and using the evidence gathered during that time? Or are you beginning a new inquiry from scratch?

Sir Laurie Magnus: I am relying very much on the evidence he gathered at the time. He did a lot of work and it has been well documented and recorded. I am not starting afresh but I do intend to meet the key protagonists.

John McDonnell: You will build upon the original inquiry.

Sir Laurie Magnus: Exactly.

Q48            John McDonnell: One final point from me. The Ministerial Code was changed, as we have discussed before, so that, rather than an automatic resignation or sacking, a range of sanctions can be applied. Will the provisions of the revised code apply in that case?

Sir Laurie Magnus: It is a good question. Without wanting to go into it in too much detail, I do not think there is anything that is relevant in the changes that apply in this particular case. Just thinking aloud, if I were to find a breach and we were talking about sanctions, I would have input into that, which previously I would not have had.

John McDonnell: So the new code will apply, effectively.

Sir Laurie Magnus: It would, yes.

Q49            Chair: In a follow-up to that, when might those witnesses and protagonists expect to be hearing from you?

Sir Laurie Magnus: That is one of the immediate things I want to try to deal with: publishing the list of Ministers’ interestsgetting that sorted and publishedand trying to bring that inquiry to a conclusion, and then in May producing my annual report. I am trying to bring the role of the independent adviser back into the routine that it should be under.

Q50            Chair: From the way that you have listed those tasks, does that suggest the order in which they will be done—the report is in May, but the other two?

Sir Laurie Magnus: Yes, the annual report is in May; the last one was in May so that returns to routine. The most important things are the list of Ministers’ interests and bringing that inquiry to a conclusion, because it was initiated in January last year, so it is a long time.

Q51            Chair: On the particular inquiry that Mr McDonnell referred to, you mentioned that a substantial amount of work had been done. Had a report been drafted?

Sir Laurie Magnus: A very preliminary version was, but unfortunately without an independent adviserbecause of the vacuumit sat on ice.

Q52            Chair: There being no further questions from the Committee, Sir Laurie, we are grateful for your time this morning. If there is anything that you feel you need to write to us further about following this session, please do.

Sir Laurie Magnus: I do not think so. Thank you very much. As I said, I would be delighted to come back again. Thank you for your time.