©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Labour vows to ‘turn page on Tory sleaze’ as it details plans for new ethics watchdog

Labour will today pledge to “turn the page on Tory sleaze” if it wins the next election, with deputy leader Angela Rayner set to flesh out party plans for an ethics watchdog for ministerial standards.

In a speech to the Institute for Government, Ms Rayner is expected to renew a commitment to “stop the rot” by creating a new independent body with powers to sanction ministers who break the rules.

Ms Rayner will say that the theory of “good chaps” in Westminster has been tested and broken by the Conservatives.

She will vow, moreover, to show people how “politics is working for them” by the end of Labour’s first term in government.

The proposals for the new watchdog were first announced by the party in 2021 and they include a pledge to scrap Whitehall’s existing revolving-doors watchdog, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba), and introduce a more robust system.

Acoba was responsible for reviewing Sir Keir Starmer’s job offer to ex-civil servant Sue Gray, and it would be replaced by an Ethics and Integrity Commission, Labour has said.

Ms Rayner will say later: “We will clean up politics, so that by the end of our first term people don’t just feel better off, they can see that politics is working for them, not for Westminster.

“Our democracy cannot hinge on gentlemen’s agreements – it needs independent and robust protection. Politics has to work for people, not for politicians. We are here to serve the public, not ourselves.”

The commission would be given the power to launch investigations into ministers, determine breaches and demand sanctions on former ministers who break the rules. It is part of a bid from Labour to close the “revolving door” between public office and lucrative roles for firms they used to regulate.

Former ministers would be banned from lobbying, consultancy or any paid work relating to their old roles for at least five years under the plans if Labour seizes No 10.

It comes after a series of standards rows that have rocked Rishi Sunak’s Government in recent months, with ministers Gavin Williamson, Nadhim Zahawi and Dominic Raab all exiting Cabinet over accusations of bad conduct.

Mr Sunak appointed Sir Laurie Magnus as his independent adviser, after the role had been vacant for many months under Liz Truss and Boris Johnson, who oversaw the investigation that led to Mr Zahawi’s departure.

Ms Rayner will commit Labour to replacing the adviser in order to “put an end to the current situation in which the prime minister is the judge and jury on every case of ministerial misconduct”.