Ministers must wait two years to take up jobs

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Indy Politics
COLIN BROWN

Ministers are to be barred from taking jobs in the private sector for up to two years after leaving office from this autumn.

The new Cabinet minister for the public service, Roger Freeman, is preparing a Commons statement next week agreeing to implement the new rules proposed by the Nolan committee for ministers from the next session of Parliament.

It would cover any ministers who leave the Government before the general election, but not ministers who resigned in last week's reshuffle, including Jonathan Aitken, former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and Richard Needham, the ex-minister for trade who led many trade missions abroad.

If the Tories lose office at the next election, it could stop Government ministers from cashing in by joining the private sector until after a "cooling off" period. Under the Nolan rules, Cabinet ministers will be barred for three months from taking up private posts.

But the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments will be able to recommend ministers of all ranks should wait up to two years before taking up directorships and other private sector posts to avoid allegations of corruption.

There were widespread rumours in Government ranks that a number of ministers wanted to drop out to avoid the bar on taking directorships, but few decided to stand down. The bar, which will drop in October, could catch many ministers who are already looking at the possibility of taking private sector appointments if the Tories lose the next election.

Mr Freeman will tell MPs that the Government does not accept the recommendation of the Nolan committee that the cooling off rule should also apply to political advisers to ministers.

The new ministerial rules will be seen as an attempt to defuse the row over the delay in implementing the Nolan recommendations on backbench MPs' private earnings.

Tony Newton, the Leader of the House, will tell MPs at the start of a debate tomorrow that the Government accepts the recommendations of the Commons committee he chaired, including a Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to police a code of practice.

Labour MPs are incensed at the delay by Tory MPs in implementing rules for the disclosure of all other earnings.

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