The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997


Sir John Major’s Opening Statement to Public Administration Committee – 12 July 2022

The opening statement by Sir John Major to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee of the House of Commons on Tuesday 12 July 2022.

It is 28 years since I set up the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

Standards in Public Life are governed by Law and convention. In practice, “conventions” are unwritten laws. They can’t be ignored without damage.

But they have been.

The whole country knows the litany.

The Government has broken the law; unlawfully tried to prorogue Parliament; ignored a nationwide lockdown by breaking its own laws in Downing Street; and tried to change Parliamentary rules to protect one of its own.

This is not an inclusive list. The damage is widespread.

In the four countries of our United Kingdom we take democracy for granted. We shouldn’t.

It is in retreat around the world.

Democracy is not inevitable. It can be undone step by step; action by action; falsehood by falsehood. It needs to be protected at all times.

If our Law, and our accepted conventions are ignored, we are on a very slippery slope that ends with pulling our Constitution to shreds.

What has been done so far has damaged our country – at home and overseas – and the reputation of Parliament.

The blame for these lapses must lie principally – but not only – with the Prime Minister. But many in his Cabinet are culpable too: as are those who cheered him on.

They were silent when they should have spoken out, and then spoke out only when their silence became self-damaging. All of this can be corrected.

The task for Parliament – and Government – will be to restore constitutional standards, and protect against any slippage from them.

And this will require changes to the Codes of Conduct.