Sunak may have breached ministerial code with Labor conference photo

Rishi Sunak may have breached ministerial code over a photo used to promote the Conservative Party conference, Labor said.

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jonathan Ashworth said the Prime Minister had “questions to answer about the veracity” as the photo used as the front page of the Tory Party agenda appeared to have been taken by a “Downing Street civil servant who funded by taxpayers'.

The agenda for the event was published earlier this week and the cover features a picture of Mr Sunak sitting on a bench with the slogan: “Long-term decisions for a brighter future”.

It was recorded during the prime minister's visit to San Diego in March, where he made the announcement of the Aukus defense partnership with the United States and Australia aboard the decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Midway.

The photo can be found from the No 10 Flickr account and is credited to Simon Walker, the prime minister's chief photographer, who is paid for by the taxpayer.

According to Article 6.3 of the ministerial code, official facilities and resources may not be used to disseminate material that is essentially partisan political.

Mr Ashworth said: “Once again jet-setting Rishi Sunak has questions to answer about correctness. A photograph which appears to have been taken by a taxpayer-funded Downing Street civil servant is being used to promote the Conservative conference.

The Tories are used to spending the taxpayer's pound as if it were their own

Jonathan Ashworth

“The Tories are used to spending the taxpayer's pound as if it were their own.

“This time it seems that the prime minister may have violated the ministerial code. He urgently needs to explain what happened here and whether he believes it is acceptable to misuse government resources as he appears to have done.”

A Conservative Party spokesman said: “This photo is in the public domain and available for use by any organisation, so there is no extra cost to the taxpayer.

“It is worrying that someone who aspires to be Chief Payments Officer cannot grasp this fact.”

The row over taxpayer-funded “vanity photographers” had already arisen under former Tory prime minister Boris Johnson.

Questions were raised about the cost-effectiveness of the three photographers and whether they provided value for taxpayers' money, given that they chronicled the work and life of the Prime Minister, members of the Cabinet and even the Prime Minister's pets.

Answering a question on the issue in the Commons in 2022, former Cabinet Office minister Nigel Adams said: “In successive governments it has been the case that civil servants and special advisers provide communications assistance.

“We hire photographers to capture government work, including that which cannot be captured by a press photographer due to its sensitive nature.

“Photographers are a cross-government resource, supporting other Departments and Ministers and playing a critical role in supporting the government's digital communications activity and progressing key policy areas.”