Dowden: No Further Punishment For Hancock’s Rule-Breaking Jungle Romp

Now that the dust has settled on Matt Hancock’s jungle romp, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Dowden has written to ACoBA Chair Lord Pickles to offer the final word on the former Health Secretary’s testicle-eating rule-breaking. In a new letter published last night, Dowden agreed that Hancock had breached Business Appointment Rules by “failing to seek the Committee’s advice” before jetting off to Australia:

I agree that undertaking a series of short-term appearances on the assumption they constitute ‘one-off’ engagements should not be used as means of not complying with the Rules. It is vital that all individuals who have held Ministerial positions are seen to abide by the requirement to seek advice about any appointments or employment they wish to take up within two years of leaving office.

He did, however, add that Matt’s newfound celebrity was a low-risk gig, so similar applications to the Committee in future should be “streamlined“. Good news for any other MPs who fancy bathing in cockroaches. He signed off by saying Hancock had suffered enough, and no further punishment would be necessary…

“Due to the highly visible nature of the roles and minimal risks to the integrity of government, we agree with the Committee’s advice that further action would be disproportionate in this case.”

Hancock’s spokesperson said:

“Matt’s glad they are now changing the ACOBA rules after the total muddle they got themselves into. Matt clearly followed the rules when he went into the jungle, as any cursory glance at their website demonstrates. The idea there’s a business conflict going onto the programme is absurd. Now they’re updating the rules to make that completely clear, not a moment too soon.”

Just in time for SAS: Who Dares Wins…

Read Dowden’s full letter below:

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mdi-timer 22 December 2022 @ 08:58 22 Dec 2022 @ 08:58 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
ACoBA, Boris And The Speaker Circuit – He’s Compliant (Now)

The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACoBA) have published Lord Pickles’ letter to Boris, revealing the committee gave Boris permission to join the élite Harry Walker Agency back in September. The decision paved the way for him to rake in the dough with lucrative speaking engagements – provided he waited the standard three months between leaving office and accepting the first gig. A condition which he, erm, didn’t quite stick to…

“The Committee does not consider joining a speaking agency raises any particular concerns under the government’s Business Appointment Rules, provided it is subject to standard conditions which prevent improper use of information and influence […] It is an individual’s responsibility to manage the propriety of the specific pieces of work undertaken. In particular, as the former Prime Minister, you must be careful not to offer any unfair insight as a result of your access to information and potential influence in government…” 

Boris’s team claimed the speeches he performed within the three-month waiting period were above board because they were “one-offs“. In any case, probation’s now over, and Boris is free to bring in the big bucks. If you want to hire him, here’s his profile. Better start saving up…

mdi-timer 7 December 2022 @ 17:04 7 Dec 2022 @ 17:04 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Boris’s New Speaking Gig May Breach Government Rules

As leopards can’t change their spots, Boris just can’t stop coming up a cropper with government standards. This morning, Guido reported that the former PM has already embarked on his post-Downing Street speaking gigs, signing up to The Premium Speakers Agency and charging $150,000 for a speech in Colorado last night. So far, so expected…

One former minister has been in touch with Guido to point out the problem with this speech: the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments. Their rules for former public figures make it very clear that anyone who leaves office must wait a minimum of three months from that date before taking up an appointment or employment. The same rules also state that while one-off speeches, broadcasts or newspaper articles don’t count as employment …

” … if applicants intend to enter into a longer term arrangement, e.g. to join a speakers’ agency, plan a series of remunerated speeches or write a regular newspaper column, they should submit an application before accepting this work.”

Unlike Boris, Theresa May left No. 10 and contacted ACoBA in September 2019 to ask about joining the Washington Speakers Bureau. Her register of interests shows that she didn’t give any paid speeches until December that year.

Guido’s peeved ex-minister asks why they should have to obey the rules if others, like Boris, can just ignore them. Eric Pickles, you have your work cut out for you…

Guido has contacted Boris’s new office putting the allegations of forgetfulness to him…

UPDATE: Sources close to Boris point out the speakers’ agency listing has now been deleted and the site has a record of putting up speakers who aren’t on their books. It remains to be seen whether he’s formally signed up to another agency, and whether he’ll be doing other well-paid speaking gigs before the three months is up… 

mdi-timer 12 October 2022 @ 10:54 12 Oct 2022 @ 10:54 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Government Accepts Cummings ACOBA Rules

Last night the government finally published Lord True’s response to ACOBA (Advisory Committee on Business Appointments) Chair Lord Pickles over Dominic Cummings’ potential breaking of ‘revolving door’ rules with his Substack blog. The long and short of it is that while True thinks Cummings did break the business appointment rules by offering to help his readers “win an election” for a fee… there’s not much that can be done about it:

“… My assessment is that Mr Cummings, in this and other matters, did not follow the rules correctly. However, this case has also highlighted that once ACOBA has decided not to rule on an application, there is no mechanism for an individual to seek to remedy that breach in good faith. In that light, I agree with you that the review of business appointment rules needs to be accelerated and completed.”

True goes on to say that while “the vast majority of former Crown servants” do follow the rules – limiting how former ministers and advisers can sell their expertise after office for at least two years – ACOBA is essentially toothless when those rules are broken:

“Former officials are responsible for following the correct process for seeking advice about any appointments or employment they wish to take up within two years of leaving office, and it is vital to the integrity of government that they fulfil these responsibilities in good faith. While the vast majority of former Crown servants do so and abide by any conditions imposed, where such intentions are lacking, the current system offers too few avenues to achieve effective redress.”

He adds that the government is now at least looking at “strengthening” the rules in future…

mdi-timer 8 September 2022 @ 11:25 8 Sep 2022 @ 11:25 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Hammond Hammered Over Breach of Ministerial Code

Lord Pickles’s ACOBA has admonished former Chancellor Philip Hammond for breaking rules on post-cabinet jobs and lobbying. Last month Hammond was accused of breaching the ministerial code after lobbying one of his former senior officials on behalf of a paying client. Today Lord Pickles has published a letter to Hammond confirming it was:

“an unwise step to contact senior officials at the Treasury on OakNorth’s behalf… the use of your contacts in government in this way was not consistent with the intention of the Rules and was not acceptable.”

Remarkably, Hammond made it clear he was exploring legal action, possibly in the form of an injunct, to prevent ACoBA’s letter being published…

Hammond claimed that in contacting Charles Roxburgh, second permanent secretary at the Treasury, he was “neither seeking to influence policy, nor motivated by an attempt to secure business (or any other form of benefit)”. Pickles wryly comments he has no doubt Hammond “sincerely believed contact with your former department in this way was appropriate”.

“The Committee considers the use of your contacts in government in this way was not consistent with the intention of the Rules and was not acceptable. The material consideration is the privileged access you obtained for OakNorth not the commercial value of the proposition.”

On the same day we learn David Cameron’s still laughing all the way to the bank…

Read Lord Pickle’s letter in full below:

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mdi-timer 1 September 2021 @ 12:26 1 Sep 2021 @ 12:26 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Cummings Reported to Cabinet Office for Substack Rule Breaking

Eric Pickles in his capacity of Chair of ACoBA has slammed Dominic Cummings for breaking rules on post-No. 10 appointments. In a letter to Cummings last month, Pickles noted he is now offering “various services for payment via a blog hosted on Substack”, which he appears not to have consulted the committee about. Pickles told Cummings it:

appears you may be in breach of the Rules” and was asked for clarification “so the Committee can understand the circumstances behind your apparent failure to seek and await for advice before promoting and receiving payment for your services”

Cummings was ordered to reply by the 5th July – he failed to do so. 

Pickles has subsequently reported Cummings to Michael Gove in his capacity as Cabinet Office minister given Boris’s former top advisor has now broken the government’s rules by failing to provide an explanation to ACoBA. Pickles says “it is now a matter for the government to decide what appropriate action to take”…

Read Pickles’ letter to Gove in full:

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mdi-timer 12 July 2021 @ 15:23 12 Jul 2021 @ 15:23 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
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