Leading article: With conflicts of interest, perception is all


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The Independent Online

The question is rightly being asked: if Baroness Warsi has been referred to the independent adviser on the Ministerial Code for what appears, on the face of it, to be a fairly minor infringement, why not Jeremy Hunt – either for maintaining too close ties with News Corp over its bid for BSkyB or for not keeping proper tabs on his special adviser?

Lady Warsi's case also poses a separate question. She admits she was accompanied on an official trip to Pakistan by a relative with whom she shared a business interest. She says that neither of them stood to profit. At a time when government policy is for embassies around the world to become glorified trade offices for the promotion of Great Britain plc, the dividing line between official and personal business may sometimes be hard to draw. The former Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, resigned after it emerged that a businessman friend, Adam Werritty, had accompanied him on many official trips. Profit in the first instance may be neither here nor there, but networking opportunities and proof of proximity to power surely have a value.