Boris Johnson criticised over 'preposterous' chief of staff appointment

Boris Johnson has been criticised over the “preposterous” appointment of Steve Barclay as his chief of staff.

Steve Barclay has been appointed the Downing Street chief of staff
Steve Barclay has been appointed the Downing Street chief of staff

Mr Barclay is already the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and MP for North East Cambridgeshire, raising concerns he will not be able to do the three jobs effectively.

The Labour party raised an urgent question on the appointment in the Commons on Monday, only for the Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis to appear instead.

Deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “Quite honestly where is the chief of staff?”

She said: “Yet his very first act is refusing even to turn up here to explain his own job, but maybe the paymaster general can tell us, is it a ministerial job, a public appointment, a party role, it’s not a spad, or is it something that doesn’t even exist yet?”

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“Apparently he won’t get a salary, perhaps he should join a trade union, but will he appoint or manage advisers or officials? How will he relate to the permanent secretary? Who will appoint staff as the minister mentioned to the new office of the Prime Minister and when will the office be set up and on what budget, or has the Chancellor given him a blank cheque?

“Is it a separate department to the Cabinet Office or are they to merge? How will he answer to us, will he face me here as the chief of staff or as the minister for Number 10?

"Is he still in charge of dealing with the Channel crossing, tackling the pandemic, protecting the union, veterans policy and every other priority of the Cabinet Office?

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Labour chairman of the Commons standards committee Chris Bryant has claimed Mr Barclay’s appointment is “preposterous” and “confuses the various different aspects of Government”.

The MP for Rhondda said: “It’s a bit difficult, isn’t it, to argue that there’s going to be greater accountability when the man’s not even here to be accountable at the first hurdle?

“It makes it far more difficult actually, for us to hold him to account. And doesn’t anybody in Downing Street yet realise that the problem is the lack of control, it’s the unaccountability and it’s the fibs, isn’t it?”

Mr Ellis insisted that “what he must recognise is that there is increased transparency, increased accountability by the fact that an elected member of Parliament answerable to this House is now going to be chief of staff at Number 10.”

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SNP Cabinet Office spokesman Brendan O’Hara claimed it was “clear as day” Mr Barclay cannot be the Chancellor of Duchy of Lancaster and the new chief of staff.He said: “Erskine May, section on public service disqualification, chapter three, paragraph 12. It says ‘all persons employed either in whole or in part in the civil servants are disqualified and it is immaterial whether they’re serving in an established capacity’.

“It’s clear as day minister, that he is a new chief of staff at Downing Street and he is also a serving member of this House. He cannot do both. And according to Erskine May he has disqualified himself from that rule. So when will the Government be moving the writ for the by-election?”