Reprieve for anti-sleaze watchdog that forced Blunkett resignation

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Indy Politics

The Government has shelved a proposal to abolish the anti-sleaze watchdog that helped to force David Blunkett's resignation from the Cabinet for the second time.

The future of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments is in doubt after a review recommended yesterday that its role in vetting the transfer of civil servants who want to switch to the private sector be transferred to another body.

The proposal would leave the Government open to the charge of neutering or abolishing the Whitehall watchdog, which played a crucial part in Mr Blunkett's resignation as Work and Pensions Secretary last month after it emerged that he had failed to consult it over some of the outside jobs he took after leaving the Cabinet for the first time.

Tony Blair played for time by putting off a decision on the review. He has referred the issue to the Commons Public Administration Select Committee, which is conducting its own inquiry into the regulation of ministers and officials and is due to report next spring.

The MPs' inquiry may lead to pressure to close a loophole in the system highlighted by the Blunkett affair. Former ministers must consult the advisory committee before taking jobs within two years after leaving office but can ignore its recommendations, which are binding on civil servants moving to the private sector.