Tougher rules in wake of Fox case

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Indy Politics

Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell today set out stricter controls on ministerial meetings with outside organisations in the wake of the Liam Fox-Adam Werritty affair.

Ministers will be required to inform their departments of discussions concerning Government business in the absence of officials.

Permanent Secretaries - the most senior civil servant in each department - were also given more explicit responsibility for raising issues with ministers and ensuring conflicts of interest are dealt with.

Sir Gus's recommendations, which he said were necessary to ensure "a more rigorous approach to avoid similar blurring of lines between personal and official business in the future", were immediately accepted by Prime Minister David Cameron.

They will mean that:

:: Ministers are required to inform their departments when "substantive issues" relating to Government decisions or contracts are discussed with external organisations without an official being present;

:: Departments make sure that there is no confusion on ministerial visits about who is and is not a member of the official party;

:: Officials accompany ministers to all formal overseas visits and meetings where official matters may be raised;

:: Permanent secretaries discuss with ministers at their appointment whether any "acquaintances or advisers" have a contractual relationship with the department or involvement in policy development. They should ensure there is no actual or perceived conflict of interest, in line with the ministerial code;

:: Permanent secretaries take responsibility for ensuring departmental procedures are followed, raising concerns with ministers and advising the Cabinet Secretary and Prime Minister if they are not resolved.