Former chancellor Philip Hammond avoids punishment over lobbying watchdog rebuke

Philip Hammond used his government connections to assist a bank he now advises, but it was not believed to be a deliberate breach of the rules

Former chancellor Philip Hammond, avoids sanctions over lobbying watchdog rebuke. Photo: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

Conservative former chancellor Philip Hammond will not be punished despite being rebuked for using his government connections to assist a bank he now advises.

The Cabinet Office decided against sanctioning Lord Hammond of Runnymede after Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) chair Lord Pickles said it was an “unwise step” for him to contact a senior Treasury official about a project developed by OakNorth.

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At a glance 5 key points:

  • Former chancellor Philip Hammond used connections to assist Oaknorth a bank he now advises
  • Chair of Advisory Committee on Business Appointments Lord Pickles said it was an ‘unwise step’
  • Lord Pickles wrote to Cabinet Office, however there will be no sanctions issued
  • It was noted it was not thought to be a deliberate breach of rules
  • Decision letter said rules needed to be ‘strengthened and clarified’.

The Tory peer argued he emailed Charles Roxburgh, the second permanent secretary at the Treasury, in a bid to establish that senior officials in the department were aware the bank was offering free support to aid the “Covid pandemic national response”.

What did the decision letter say?

Lord Pickles wrote to the Cabinet Office with his findings and said Lord Hammond’s use of his contacts in government “in this way was not consistent with the intention of the rules and was not acceptable”.

But Lord True, a minister in the department, noted that the Acoba chair did not believe it was a deliberate attempt to breach the rules.

“In that light, although we concur with your conclusion, we do not believe further sanctions should be taken given the particular circumstances of this case,” Lord True said in a letter to the chair.

“We also note there has already been public criticism from your committee.”

The letter from Lord True also said: “More broadly, we recognise that the Rules, and the process surrounding them, should be strengthened and clarified.

“We will take steps to highlight to departments that in their communications they should be conscious of the restrictions on direct engagement with those subject to business appointment conditions.”

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