Labour have written to the Cabinet Office complaining about George Osborne’s job at the Standard. Guido has the letter:
London SW1A 2AS
cc: Sue Gray, Rt. Hon. George Osborne
I write to formally raise my concern about a potential breach of the Ministerial Code by the Rt. Hon. Member for Tatton, George Osborne.
Mr Osborne served this country as Chancellor of the Exchequer until July 2016, just over eight months ago. Since leaving this post, the Member for Tatton has drawn considerable controversy over his private appointments and notably his failure to fully declare details of these appointments to the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments.
In October last year, after learning of one of Mr. Osborne’s appointments in the press, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments wrote to Mr. Osborne stating that: “The Committee would also remind you that advice should be sought on all appointments, paid or unpaid, before they are taken up or announced” and that the “the committee is unable to offer retrospective advice on appointments that have already been announced.”
Today many were again concerned to find that Mr. Osborne had repeated this procedure, announcing his new role at the London Evening Standard prior to consulting the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments.
The rules on Business Appointments are established to counter suspicion that the decisions and statements of a serving Minister might be influenced by the hope or expectation of future employment with a particular firm or organisation; and that an employer could make improper use of official information to which a former Minister has had access to.
Disregarding these rules deeply undermines public trust in the democratic processes and does a disservice to those Members that ensure they follow the rules laid out on these matters.
Furthermore, the rules around this process are outlined in Section 7.25 of the Ministerial Code, which states that:
“On leaving office, Ministers will be prohibited from lobbying Government for two years. They must also seek advice from the independent Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACoBA) about any appointments or employment they wish to take up within two years of leaving office. To ensure that Ministers are fully aware of their future obligations in respect of outside appointments after leaving office, the Business Appointment Rules are attached at Annex B. Former Ministers must abide by the advice of the Committee which will be published by the Committee when a role is announced or taken up.”
In light of the Member for Tatton’s conduct, I request that the incident be investigated to determine as soon as possible if a breach of the Ministerial Code has taken place. The Ministerial Code sets out that in the position of Permanent Secretary, you advise Ministers on potential conflicts of interest, and agree action with them regarding the handling of them.
I therefore ask you to urgently clarify:
Whether the Member for Tatton’s conduct constituted a breach of the Ministerial Code;
Whether you were made aware of the Member for Tatton’s appointment at the Evening Standard prior to it being announced in the press;
Whether you aware that the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments had not been consulted;
And, if a breach of the Ministerial Code has taken place, whether you have consulted the Prime Minister about further steps to be taken.
Given the public interest, I am placing a copy of this letter in the public domain.
Andrew Gwynne MP
Shadow Minister without Portfolio