Under new government guidelines, ministers who break standards and regulations in a “minor” fashion will not be expected to quit or risk dismissal.
MPs have historically been expected to resign from the government if they violate the Ministerial Code in any way.
However, the PM now has the option of imposing a lighter sentence under a new clause of the code.
Boris Johnson has been accused by Labour of “watering down” standards in public life.
The amendments are the result of a review of the Ministerial Code by the Committee on Standards in Public Life, which issued a report with a set of reform proposals.
The divisive measures come as Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces a parliamentary probe over whether he lied to Parliament about lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street.
Ministers who deliberately deceive Parliament are still expected to quit, according to the code, which states: “It is of vital importance that ministers offer accurate and genuine information to Parliament.”
Based on advice from his standards adviser, Lord Geidt, who examines alleged breaches, the prime minister is responsible for enforcing the code.
Mr Johnson has written a new introduction for the amended code, which focuses on his government’s aims rather than ministerial standards.
The PM has eliminated “any references to integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, and leadership in the public good,” according to Deputy Labour Leader Angela Rayner.
In addition, following a “conversation” with the prime minister, Lord Geidt will now be empowered to begin his inquiries into alleged violations of the code.
However, according to new advice on the function, he must still “contact the prime minister, who will generally give his assent” to a probe.
Lord Geidt previously had to wait until the prime minister asked him to begin an investigation.
After conducting a probe into the prime minister’s flat refurbishing last year, Lord Geidt said he anticipated being given “considerably greater” authority, independence, and influence.
After it was revealed that Conservative peer Lord Brownlow had donated £52,000 to help cover the costs, the peer cleared the prime minister of a conflict of interest.