Former ministers could be banned from lobbying government for five years under Labour plans

Getty Images
The ‘revolving door’ between government and business has been widely criticised in recent years

Former ministers could be banned from lobbying the government for at least five years after leaving office if Labour wins the next election, according to the Financial Times.

The current regime for enforcing bans on former government insiders from taking up lucrative roles in the private sector has been widely criticised as inadequate, with the current chair of the watchdog describing the body as “essentially toothless”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The so-called ‘revolving door’ between government and business has been the subject of a number of scandals in recent years, including David Cameron’s lobbying on behalf of Greensill Capital and former minister Owen Paterson’s resignation from Parliament after he was found to have carried out paid advocacy for two firms.

Labour has previously announced proposals to ban MPs from taking on second jobs, particularly as consultants or from holding company directorships.

‘Toothless watchdog’

The FT reports that - as part of a wider effort to clamp down on sleaze - former ministers would be prevented from lobbying the government for five years after leaving office.

The standards regime is currently made up of a number of different bodies, with the remit and powers of each sometimes overlapping or unclear. These include the independent Committee on Standards in Public Life, the Committee on Standards (a select committee made up of MPs and lay members), the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba).

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Prime Minister also has an adviser on ethics, who can be asked to investigate potential breaches of the ministerial code, but these investigations must be initiated by the PM, even if they relate to a potential breach on his own behalf.

Sir Laurie Magnus was appointed as the PM’s new ethics adviser in December. At the time, Labour’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner accused Rishi Sunak of preserving “the rotten ethics regime” because he failed to follow a recommendation by the Committee on Standards in Public Life to grant the adviser independence. She said: “This weak Prime Minister is failing to deliver the integrity he promised and instead has installed yet another toothless watchdog.”

“Labour will clean up politics and restore standards in public life after years of Tory sleaze and scandal. Our genuinely independent Integrity and Ethics Commission will have powers to launch investigations without ministerial approval, collect evidence and decide sanctions.”

The Committee on Standards in Public Life has previously called for a ban on former ministers and officials from working for private companies for five years after leaving office.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Proposals to replace Acoba

Under the current rules, former government insiders are generally able to take up appointments in the private sector after consulting Acoba, typically with the condition that they do not lobby the government for up to two years.

Acoba considers whether ex-ministers or officials had direct contact with their new employer while working in government and whether they would have had access to information which could benefit them.

However, the system has been criticised for failing to consider former ministers who re-enter government having taken up roles in the private sector, and MPs with non-ministerial roles who could still have had access to information which could provide a benefit to their new employer.

NationalWorld has previously reported that former Chancellor Sajid Javid worked for tech firm C3.ai after resigning from the cabinet, but left the job with the private firm to take up a role as Health Secretary. C3.ai has since had at least two meetings with the Department for Health and Social Care about providing AI solutions to the NHS.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Earlier this year, we reported that former chair of the Net Zero Review Chris Skidmore had taken on a lucrative second-job with a decarbonisation firm, the Emissions Capture Company. The Net Zero Review recommended “incentives for investment in decarbonisation,” which could see Skidmore’s new employer benefit significantly.

Acoba had no remit to investigate or give recommendations in either case.

Acoba has on occasion recommended that ex-ministers delay taking up a new role, and Labour is currently awaiting a decision on whether former senior civil servant Sue Gray will have to wait up to two years before joining the party as Keir Starmer’s chief of staff.

To help enforce the proposed five-year ban, Labour will set out plans to replace Acoba with an Integrity and Ethics Commission which would have greater powers to investigate and impose sanctions than the current body.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A Labour spokesperson confirmed to the FT that the proposals to ban ministers from lobbying for five years after leaving office - and set up an ethics commission - would be among the policies the party would consider when putting together its general election manifesto.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.