Page last updated at 13:34 GMT, Wednesday, 19 October 2011 14:34 UK

Government announces tightening of ministerial code

Commons leader Sir George Young has outlined steps that are being taken to tighten the ministerial code of conduct, following the revelation that former Defence Secretary Liam Fox broke the code during his time in office.

Mr Fox resigned last week after a report found he had broken ministerial rules over his links with close friend and self-styled adviser Adam Werritty. The report by Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell's said there had been a "failure of judgement", for which Mr Fox took ultimate responsibility.

Sir George said the report was clear that "the frequency, range and extent" of the meetings between Mr Fox and Mr Werritty "were not regulated as well as they should have been".

Permanent secretaries would be given fresh advice on how to manage any similar situation in the future, and the rules surrounding access to ministers by lobbyists and other acquaintances would be tightened up, he explained to MPs on 19 October 2011.

The government will bring forward a consultation document on a statutory register for lobbyists in November, with the aim of legislating next year.

Shadow Commons leader Angela Eagle said it was a matter of "deep regret" that the prime minister had not made the statement himself because "it is he who is the guardian of the ministerial code".

She said the report left many unanswered questions and wanted to know why David Cameron had not referred the case to independent on ministerial standards, Sir Philip Mawer.

She argued that further investigation was "essential" and "urgent" and questioned why the situation had been allowed to continue for so long.

Labour wants the government to publish details of all the meetings Mr Werritty had with ministers outside of the Ministry of Defence.

Sir George pointed out that it was unusual for the government to make an oral statement following a minister's resignation, but that the wider implications of the report meant it was right for the House to have the opportunity to consider the government's response.

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