Anti-sleaze concern as mandarins get top jobs

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair has been accused of secretly helping senior civil servants secure lucrative private sector jobs.

Tony Blair has been accused of secretly helping senior civil servants secure lucrative private sector jobs.

The Prime Minister has informally endorsed claims by a number of mandarins that their appointment is in the "national interest", The Independent on Sunday has been told.

A member of the anti-sleaze watchdog that vets applications by senior officials to move to the private sector today publicly called for the rules to be tightened.

Lord Maclennan, Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, said that the prospect of well-paid private sector jobs was "casting a long shadow" over the civil service.

The watchdog warned earlier this year that the "traffic" between Whitehall and the City was leading to a "heightened risk of impropriety" as retiring mandarins eyed big business opportunities.

Britain's most senior retiring public servants took up a total of 41 private sector jobs between April and the beginning of this month.

Examples include:

* Lord Boyce, the former Chief of Defence Staff, recently began working with WS Atkins, Tricolom and Computer Sciences Ltd, all of which have extensive involvement with UK defence contracts.

* Sir Robert Walmsley, the MoD's former Chief of Defence Procurement, has added EDO Corporation, a US defence firm, to his portfolio of directorships that already includes General Dynamics.

* Sir Nicholas Montague, the former chief executive of the Inland Revenue, has begun a part-time appointment with Price WaterhouseCooper, which includes tax advice among its services.

In each case, the appointments were approved by the watchdog, often with conditions, and there is no suggestion that any individual has behaved improperly.

Nevertheless, there is growing unease at the number and type of appointments being made. "They come all the time," said one figure involved in monitoring the flow of senior officials to the private sector. "Often there is a suggestion, sometimes backed by Number 10, that it would be 'in the national interest' if such-and-such were to be allowed to take up the post."

Despite the concerns, Mr Blair moved in the summer to relax the rules. He appointed Sir Patrick Brown, a former mandarin now working in the City, to carry out an internal review to be completed by October.