BORIS Johnson has been accused of watering down the rules for ministers after it was made clear they will not automatically lose their jobs if they breach the Ministerial Code.

A UK Government policy statement said it was “disproportionate” to expect ministers to resign or face the sack for “minor” violations of the code of conduct’s provisions.

Instead it has been updated, giving the Prime Minister the option of ordering a lesser sanction such as “some form of public apology, remedial action or removal of ministerial salary for a period”.

It had previously expected that ministers should resign if they were found to have breached the code.

At the same time Mr Johnson has drawn backing from allowing his independent adviser on the code, Lord Geidt, to mount investigations into possible violations on his own initiative.

Under his revised terms of reference, there will be an “enhanced process” to enable him to initiate inquiries, but he will still require the Prime Minister’s consent before going ahead.

“Reflecting the Prime Minister’s accountability for the conduct of the executive, it is important that a role is retained for the Prime Minister in decisions about investigations,” the statement said.

The changes come just days after the final report by the senior civil servant Sue Gray into lockdown parties in Downing Street led to renewed calls for Mr Johnson to resign.

The Prime Minister is now facing an inquiry by the Commons Privileges Committee into whether he misled Parliament into what happened.

Former Conservative MSP Adam Tomkins labelled the changes "corrupt and disgraceful".

Professor Tomkins added that the overhauk was "a betrayal of everything Conservatives are supposed to believe about our constitutional democracy".

SNP’s depute Westminster leader, Kirsten Oswald, said the decision by the PM was "the actions of a guilty man", adding that it showed "a Prime Minister caught bang to rights on his lockdown law-breaking and now desperate to save his own skin".

She said: “The antics of this corrupt Prime Minister and his sleazy Westminster government continue, and they have now doubled down in a pathetic bid to save the career of one law-breaking man. Their arrogance and sense of entitlement knows no bounds.

“If the Prime Minister, any prime minister, breaks the law or the ministerial code they should go - no ifs, no buts. It is scandalous that Boris Johnson has been able to keep his position so shamelessly, and is now rewriting the ministerial code and blocking attempts for independent investigations into his conduct - the very things that exist to keep him in check.

"These are actions worthy of a tin-pot dictator."

Ms Oswald added: “Never before have we seen a government so mired in sleaze and scandal, which has prevented them for so long from acting on a cost of living crisis that they themselves created.

“This is no longer just about the outrageous partygate scandal or the leadership of the Conservative party, this move strikes at the very heart of our democracy and will threaten the ability to scrutinise the Prime Minister for years to come."

Labour said Mr Johnson had removed all references to “integrity, objectivity, accountability, transparency, honesty and leadership in the public interest” from his own foreword to the code to “save his own skin”.

The party’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “This Prime Minister is downgrading and debasing the principles of public life before our very eyes.

“In a week when Boris Johnson’s lies to Parliament about industrial rule-breaking at the heart of Government were finally exposed, he should be tendering his resignation but is instead watering down the rules to save his own skin.

“Once again, Boris Johnson has demonstrated he is not serious about his pledge to address the scandal and sleaze engulfing his Government or the frequent and flagrant breaches of standards and rule-breaking that have taken place on his watch.”

Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said: “This is an appalling attempt by Boris Johnson to rig the rules to get himself off the hook.

“The Prime Minister shouldn’t be allowed to decide on his own punishment – with zero accountability.

“This is making him judge and jury in his own case.

“If the Privileges Committee finds Boris Johnson lied to Parliament, surely Conservative MPs will have no choice but to sack him.”