Chair of Whitehall revolving door watchdog 'increasingly concerned' at ex-ministers' knowledge of standards

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Chair of Whitehall revolving door watchdog 'increasingly concerned' at ex-ministers' knowledge of standards
© Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images Eric Pickles Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

  • Lord Eric Pickles is “increasingly concerned” by ex-ministers’ understanding of standards and rules.
  • Pickles, chair of revolving door watchdog ACOBA, made the remark in a letter to the Cabinet Office.
  • Pickles was writing about ex-DHSC minister Steve Brine, who contacted a health minister for a firm he was working for.

The chair of the revolving door watchdog has said he is “growing increasingly concerned” at former ministers’ understanding of the rules and standards they are bound by, as he wrote to the government to inform them of another breach of the ministerial code.

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Lord Eric Pickles, chair of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA), wrote to Steve Barclay, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the top minister in the Cabinet Office, about a former health minister’s failure to follow the business appointment rules.

Pickles noted that “that not all former Ministers of the Crown are sufficiently clear on the various standards of behaviour, rules and legislation that are incumbent on them” in his letter to Barclay.

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“The government’s business appointment rules administered by departments and the committee relate to conflicts presented by an individual’s previous role in government and are separate to rules administered by other bodies such as the Office of the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists or the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.”

Pickles told Barclay that Steve Brine, a health minister until March 2019, had failed to follow the rules, which are incumbent upon former ministers as part of the ministerial code.

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Brine failed to ask ACOBA for advice on taking a role with Sigma Pharmaceuticals ahead of starting the appointment, only approaching the committee after beginning the £1,666 a month role.

As part of his work for Sigma, Brine hosted appearances at Sigma webinars by government health ministers Nadhim Zahawi and Matt Hancock. Brine invited them to take part, but said he did not lobby the ministers on behalf of the company.

Pickles said it was not “in keeping with the letter or the spirit of the government’s Rules for [Brine] to contact a minister with responsibilities for health on behalf of a pharmaceutical company which pays him.”

Sigma would go on to win a £100,000 government contract to deliver lateral flow tests to pharmacies.

The Office of the Registrar for Consultant Lobbyists cleared Brine of having conducted unregistered consultant lobbying as Brine is not VAT-registered.

The investigation into Brine’s activity by ACOBA and the lobbying watchdog came following reports in The Times and The Mirror.

In a letter to Pickles published by ACOBA, Brine said: “I feel it is important to point out that any attempts in the media designed to smear Members of Parliament demean the entire political process and the reputation of decent people.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

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