Birt in cash for advice controversy

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Indy Politics

John Birt, the former BBC director general who advises Tony Blair on long-term government strategy, has asked to be paid for advice which up to now he has given freely, according to Whitehall sources.

John Birt, the former BBC director general who advises Tony Blair on long-term government strategy, has asked to be paid for advice which up to now he has given freely, according to Whitehall sources.

Lord Birt's role has increased since the head of the Downing Street Strategy Unit, Geoff Mulgan, left in July. But the prospect of him becoming a paid adviser has prompted fears among leading civil servants about a possible clash of interest with his outside business links.

He is an adviser to McKinsey, the large management consultancy, which has clients in the media, telecommunications, banking and construction. Since February, he has been a director of PayPal, which handles credit card transactions on the internet.

After 12 years at the BBC, Lord Birt was enlisted to advise the Prime Minister on combating crime four years ago, and has been an unpaid "strategy adviser" ever since.

A Downing Street press officer said: "There has been no change to Lord Birt's position in Downing Street and as far as I am aware there been no discussion of it changing."

But a senior Whitehall source said: "I can assure you that he has asked to be paid, and it has caused a flurry because of his outside interests."

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