Government drops plan to regulate ex-ministers

Before the last election David Cameron said he would make it illegal to break ban on lobbying

The Government has shelved plans to make it an offence for former ministers and officials to break rules designed to stop them trading on their former positions for personal gain.

Before the last election David Cameron said a Conservative government would make it illegal for former ministers to break conditions imposed upon them by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments.

The committee is responsible for ruling on what former government employees can and can't do when they leave office and bans them from lobbying former colleagues for 12 months. At present decisions cannot be legally enforced.

Yesterday the Government confirmed it now had no plans to put the committee on a statutory basis. It said the proposal had "not made the cut".

Downing Street also said there was nothing improper about Mr Cameron's former head of policy taking a senior role at a lobbying firm.

The Independent revealed yesterday that senior No 10 aide James O'Shaughnessy had failed to inform the committee that he planned to join the lobbying company Portland as its chief policy adviser. Portland's clients include the governments of Russia and Kazakhstan, Google, McDonald's, Vodafone and the arms company BAE Systems.

But Downing Street insisted that he did not need to as it had already given its approval for him to set himself up as an independent consultant and said this would cover the Portland role.

"Mr O'Shaughnessy's consultancy's acceptance of this commission by Portland was in line with the advice he received from the committee," said a Cabinet Office spokesman.

However, the Portland press release made it clear that Mr O'Shaughnessy's appointment was not a commission.

"He joins Portland in a newly created role as chief policy adviser, where he will advise clients on the priorities of the Coalition and in particular the Conservative Party," it said.

If that were the case he would require fresh approval from the committee. Its rules state: "Special advisers are required to submit an application for any new appointment or employment they wish to take up during the two-year period after their last day of paid service."

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