United Kingdom

Ministers and civil servants could be denied honours if they break lobbying rules

Ministers and mandarins who break lobbying rules when they go to work for the private sector can now be denied knighthoods and peerages.

Former government figures who are nominated for honours are being vetted to see if they have taken up jobs without getting approval first, or rushed to approach ex-colleagues on behalf of business.

The Honours and Appointments Secretariat now contacts the watchdog that approves business appointments for former ministers and top civil servants to see if they are fit to be given gongs. 

Ministers and mandarins who break lobbying rules when they go to work for the private sector can now be denied knighthoods and peerages

The move, quietly introduced by the Cabinet Office last year, is intended to ensure that they do not ignore the Business Appointment Rules, which are meant to prevent them profiting from their knowledge of and contacts within Whitehall. 

It comes after widespread concern that the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) is a toothless watchdog.

Although David Cameron did not break any rules in his lobbying of ministers on behalf of controversial finance firm Greensill Capital, the growing investigation into the scandal could identify others who did – and they could be denied the prestigious awards traditionally given to retiring senior public servants. 

Acoba chairman Lord Pickles wrote this week: 'Any failure to comply with Acoba's advice will be taken into consideration as part of the vetting process in awarding honours.'

Under the rules, ex-ministers or top civil servants who are offered paid or unpaid roles within two years of leaving office are meant to seek approval from Acoba first.

Those who take up jobs with lobbying firms are usually banned from approaching former colleagues in Government for two years. 

But until now there have been no sanctions for those who flout the rules.

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