Leading article: Sir Humphrey's gravy train

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The Independent Online

If ever there was a time when Sir Humphrey simply sat at his desk cooking up devilish schemes to frustrate his minister, the first published list of hospitality accepted by senior civil servants shows it to be long past. But is that list really as shocking as some self-appointed guardians of standards in public life want us to believe? How strong, really, is the whiff of corruptibility? On this evidence, we are relieved to say, not very.

Sir Brian Bender, permanent secretary at the Department for Business, has caught most flak. But his weekly assignations smack more of dreary duty than the high life lived courtesy of moneyed lobbyists. There is surely a difference between free Cup Final tickets and, say, breakfast with the Work Foundation. With a new light now being shone on hospitality, we can hope that Sir Humphrey might be more discriminating about the invitations he accepts. And if not? Well, if our paths were to cross at the opera, we would at least be able to find out who was paying.

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