The Ministry of Defence last night launched an investigation into allegations that a series of former military chiefs had offered to lobby ministers and Whitehall officials for undercover reporters posing as arms manufacturers.
Journalists from The Sunday Times secretly filmed retired senior officers offering access to ministers and MoD officials involved in awarding multi-million-pound arms contracts. It is against Whitehall rules for former ministers or ex-armed forces personnel to work for or on behalf of firms related to their work in office, without clearing it with an independent watchdog.
Lord Dannatt, the former head of the Army and an ex-adviser to David Cameron before the 2010 election, refused an £8,000 monthly fee to approach senior MoD figures, but did offer to "facilitate conversations" about military technology on offer from undercover reporters.
Lord Dannatt told Sky News he thought he was talking to executives representing a South Korean firm involved in "mini drone" hardware which he believed was "very attractive" because it could "save lives".
Lord Dannatt insisted he had not broken lobbying rules, adding: "In every walk of life, networking is what people do the whole time. There is nothing extraordinary, illegal or unusual about that … I have done nothing wrong."
As many as five other figures are said to be have been approached as part of the operation.
Promising an investigation, the Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, said: "Equipment is procured in the interests of our armed forces and not in the interests of retired personnel."
Like ministers, retired personnel are subject to rules set by the independent Advisory Committee on Business Appointments.