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Sunday, April 18, 2021

More lobbying allegations to emerge?

The Independent reports on the views of Lord Evans, the head of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, who believes that Government ministers’ financial ties to private companies should be scrutinised more closely.

Lord Evans, whose watchdog monitors standards among holders of public office, said that “a number of allegations” in the past year “haven’t been completely investigated”, adding that it could prove “very corrosive” if such cases are left unresolved.

He has also highlighted the fact that the post of independent adviser to the prime minister on ministerial interests has been left vacant since November, following the resignation of Sir Alex Allan, and that – even when the role is fulfilled – such advisers don’t have the power to launch investigations:

“At the moment they have to wait to be asked, and that means the perception might be that this is not as independent a role as it might be,” Lord Evans said during BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour.

“I think there's an opportunity there to modernise this role and to ensure that [its holder is] able to allay public concerns as they arise.”

Sir Alex stepped down from his post after prime minister Boris Johnson stood by home secretary Priti Patel in the wake of a report authored by the independent adviser which described Patel’s conduct towards members of the civil service as “behaviour that can be described as bullying”.

Other government officials have also demanded greater oversight of ministerial interests after revelations that former prime minister David Cameron lobbied ministers including chancellor Rishi Sunak and health secretary Matt Hancock on behalf of his employer, Greensill Capital, via texts, emails and “private drinks” events.

Former cabinet secretary Lord Wilson suggested that ministers should be banned from lobbying on behalf of companies who are paying them, and joined calls for the prime minister’s independent adviser to be “given the power to initiate investigations”.

In a letter to The Times, he wrote that lobbying is “an inevitable part of public life” but added that there must be “no hint of hint of corruption, no suggestion of cosy deals without due process, no suspicion of 'old boy' networks.

“Although it is difficult to legislate for morality, the Greensill and other affairs now emerging certainly suggest a need to toughen our safeguards. Greater openness is important,” he wrote, adding that he would “ban any former minister or senior official from lobbying government on behalf of any business that was paying them in whatever capacity”.

Somehow, one gets the impression that this is one deluge that will be impossible to stop.

Dan Hodges Mail on Sunday says info was leaked by a Labour mole in the system That alone implies the Govnt has something to hide for it always blames others for its problems.
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