Breakfast at the five-star Goring hotel, lunch at Ascot, drinks at the Ritz - it’s all in a day’s work, it seems, for some of the civil servants in charge of nuclear policy.
Mandarins carrying out the Government’s public consultation into nuclear power were wined and dined at some of London’s top restaurants and hotels by organisations with a vested interest in new power stations, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.
Civil servants working in the nuclear consultations and liabilities unit at the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) were given free meals, drinks and gifts more than 50 times in the period preceding and during the consultation into nuclear power that ran from May until October 2007.
Venues included the Ritz, the Goring Hotel and the Royal Lancaster. One civil servant even enjoyed a Ladies Day lunch at Ascot courtesy of Urenco, a company that operates nuclear enrichment plants.
The nuclear consultations and liabilities unit’s role, according to nuclear supporters, is to “remove the barriers to new nuclear build”. According to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the unit’s head, Mark Higson, his deputy, Adam Dawson and Dr Mel Draper, the head of non-proliferation policy, as well as other civil servants, all enjoyed extensive hospitality from the nuclear lobby.
British Energy, which is closely involved in nuclear new build, paid for a reception at the Café Royal, dinner at the Goring and a Burns Night supper at the Caledonian Club.
Merchant bankers Rothschild – said to be leading the push for nuclear new build in the City – paid for breakfast at the Goring, a reception at the Walbrook Club, drinks at the five-star Dukes Hotel and dinner at the fashionable French restaurant L’Oranger.
Cabinet Office guidance to civil servants on entertainment states: “You need to ask yourself some commonsense questions: for instance ... whether the
entertainment is lavish, on a scale which you could not personally afford; whether you are accepting too much hospitality from the same source; and, if your post is prominent, whether just your attendance at an event may be open to interpretation as a signal of support.”
The revelations angered MPs. “This is entirely inappropriate behaviour by civil servants,” said Norman Baker, the Lib Dem MP for Lewes. “Civil servants should not be accepting hospitality from a group they should be regulating.”
A BERR spokesperson said: “The hospitality concerned is openly registered and complies with the Civil Service guidelines.”