A second former Conservative health minister has been censured by the UK's anti-corruption watchdog
- Another former health minister in the UK government has been censured by the country’s official anti-corruption watchdog for an “unacceptable” breach of the ministerial code.
- Conservative MP Stephen Hammond failed to declare his role advising an influential think tank on infrastructure and health policy.
- It comes less than a week after another Conservative MP and former health minister, George Freeman, was also censured by the watchdog for failing to declare a role with a firm seeking to sell PPP to the NHS.
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A second former health minister in the UK government has been censured by the UK’s anti-corruption watchdog for an “unacceptable” breach of the ministerial code, which is designed to prevent corruption in public life.
The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) found that Conservative Member of Parliament and former Health Minister Stephen Hammond had failed to seek their advice before taking a £100-an-hour job with the think-tank Public Policy Projects (PPP) last year.
PPP, which has hired several other former Conservative ministers, including the former Home Secretary Amber Rudd, describes itself as a “subscription-based global policy institute”.
Hammond failed to declare the role, which initially involved giving advice on his former ministerial responsibilities of infrastructure, but which was later expanded to include healthcare policy, despite clear rules requiring him to first seek ACOBA’s advice.
Under UK government rules designed to prevent corruption in public office, former ministers must seek advice from ACOBA prior to taking up any appointments or employment within two years of leaving office.
Hammond, who left the Department of Health as a Minister of Health in July 2019, joined Public Policy Projects less than a year later in May 2020.
In their decision notice, ACOBA said that Hammond had acknowledged that the role may involve some contacts with his former ministerial colleagues.
They also told Hammond that there was a risk that the contacts he had developed while a minister could give an “unfair advantage to any organisation with an interest in healthcare policy.”
Despite finding that Hammond had broken the Ministerial Code, ACOBA went on to approve a request by Hammond for his role at PPP to be expanded to include advising on healthcare policy, in addition to the work Hammond already does on infrastructure policy.
The finding comes less than a week after Insider revealed that ACOBA had found that another former health minister, Conservative MP George Freeman, had also broken the ministerial code after he failed to declare his work for a company seeking to sell personal protective equipment to the National Health Service.
Read more: Conservative MP George Freeman received cash from PPE firm founded by former government appointee
Anti-corruption campaigners told Insider that ACOBA’s latest ruling showed the need for urgent reform of the rules designed to prevent corruption in public life.
Susan Hawley, the Executive Director of Spotlight on Corruption, told Insider: “Yet again, this case raises real questions as to whether ACOBA is fit for purpose, and has the necessary teeth to be taken seriously by ministers.
“It’s time for the UK to establish an Ethics Commission with statutory powers to investigate and sanction breaches of rules on standards in public life. The UK should look to what’s going on in the US where the Biden administration is seeking an ethics renewal for public servants and take note.”
ACOBA first wrote to Hammond on September 30 last year, following a story in Private Eye by this reporter, requesting Hammond’s explanation for his failure to consult them.
Hammond responded on October 7 to offer his unreserved apology, stating that his understanding of the rules was that the requirement to consult ACOBA only applied where one is seeking “outside employment within the sphere of the Department you were appointed in within two years”.
Hammond had left the Department of Transport in July 2014, but as he had served as a health minister, he was still required to consult ACOBA.
In the same letter, Hammond requested ACOBA for advice on a role within the healthcare sector, which was to be an expansion of his job as a co-chair at PPP.
ACOBA approved his amended role, stating that Hammond was subject to the standard conditions on ex-ministers banning them from lobbying the Government on behalf of the company or to use privileged information from their time in ministerial office.
Writing to Hammond, Lord Pickles, the chair of ACOBA, said: “To fulfill the remit given to it by the Government, the Committee must be able to consider an application fully and freely before offering advice. It is impossible to do this in a way that will command public confidence if an appointment has already been announced and/or taken up.
“The Committee regards it as unacceptable you did not seek advice as you were required to for your original role with PPP. This is a breach of the Government’s Rules, and the requirement set out in the Ministerial Code.”
PPP has recently appointed several other former Conservative ministers. Last week, Amber Rudd, former Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, joined as co-chair focussing on matters of climate and energy. In June last year, Hammond was joined by fellow former health minister Baroness Blackwood. Unlike Hammond, both Rudd and Blackwood sought advice from ACOBA before taking up their appointment.
Stephen Hammond was contacted for comment prior to publication.
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