Sir Jeremy Heywood urged to investigate Boris Johnson and Liam Fox

Saturday, 30 September 2017, 04:05:18 AM. The Foreign Secretary and International Trade Secretary are accused of breaching Cabinet rules by hosting a think tank launch.

Britain's top civil servant has been urged to investigate Boris Johnson and Liam Fox for a potential breach of Cabinet rules.

Labour MPs have written to Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood asking him to examine the launch of the new Institute for Free Trade (IFT) think tank earlier this week.

Hosted by the Foreign Secretary, Wednesday night's event was held in the Foreign Office's Map Room.

In the letter, Sir Jeremy has been encouraged to rule on whether this contravenes the ministerial code for government ministers, which states: "Government property should not generally be used for constituency work or party political activities."

sir-jeremy-heywood-urged-to-investigate-boris-johnson-and-liam-fox photo 1 Image: The event was held in the Foreign Office's Map Room

On its website, the IFT states it aims to put forward the "intellectual and moral case for free trade" - and says it views Brexit as a "unique opportunity to revitalise the world trading system".

It adds: "We will work closely with, though independently of, the UK's newly established International Trade Department, ensuring that Brexit becomes a catalyst for a freer global trading order."

The think tank is run by pro-Brexit Tory MEP Daniel Hannan and boasts former Conservative leader Lord Howard and ex-Australian prime minister Tony Abbott as board members.

The letter also calls for Sir Jeremy, who is responsible for enforcing ministerial rules, to look at whether civil servants and special advisers were involved in the event.

sir-jeremy-heywood-urged-to-investigate-boris-johnson-and-liam-fox photo 2 Image: The IFT think tank describes Brexit as a 'unique opportunity'

Labour MP Chuka Umunna wrote the letter, which was also signed by his party colleagues Ben Bradshaw, Chris Bryant and Stephen Doughty.

Mr Umunna claimed the event "raises significant issues under the Ministerial Code" - and suggested Sir Jeremy has "a duty" to investigate the matter.

He wrote: "I believe that launching think tanks, especially a think tank that is at variance with publicly stated government policy, does not count as an official duty.

"Given the involvement of Mr Hannan in particular, who is a serving Conservative Party politician with no role at all in Her Majesty's Government, it seems that this event should count as party political activity.

"The possible involvement of civil servants and special advisers in organising and hosting this event also raises significant questions, given that both the Civil Service Code and the Special Advisers' Code are clear that official resources must not be used for party political purposes or activities."

sir-jeremy-heywood-urged-to-investigate-boris-johnson-and-liam-fox photo 3 Image: The Institute for Free Trade is run by pro-Brexit Tory MEP Daniel Hannan

Mr Umunna, a leading supporter of the pro-EU Open Britain campaign, has also sent a list of questions regarding the event to Mr Johnson.

In a letter to the Foreign Secretary, he added: "I know that you have become accustomed to the freedom you have been accorded in the past as a newspaper columnist. But you are now the Foreign Secretary.

"You are not a polemicist free to act as you like, but a senior member of the Government."

A Government spokesperson said: "The Cabinet Secretary has received a letter of complaint and he will reply in due course."

The IFT has been approached for comment.

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