Hancock broke rules on post-ministerial jobs by appearing on TV shows – Dowden

But the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Oliver Dowden, agreed that any further disciplinary action would be ‘disproportionate’.

Sophie Wingate
Wednesday 21 December 2022 21:55 GMT
Matt Hancock will not be standing as an MP at the next election (Lucy North/PA)
Matt Hancock will not be standing as an MP at the next election (Lucy North/PA) (PA Wire)

Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden has agreed with Parliament’s anti-corruption watchdog that Matt Hancock broke Government rules by not consulting the body before appearing on reality TV shows.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster also accepted advice by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) that any disciplinary action would be “disproportionate” and that the rules should be changed.

The watchdog, which scrutinises post-ministerial jobs, criticised the former health secretary for signing up to ITV’s I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! and Channel 4’s SAS Who Dares Wins without its permission.

We agree with the committee's advice that further action would be disproportionate in this case

Oliver Dowden

In a letter to Tory chairman of Acoba Lord Pickles, Mr Dowden wrote: “I agree with the committee’s assessment that Mr Hancock has not adhered to the Business Appointment Rules by failing to seek the committee’s advice in advance of signing up to these appearances…

“Due to the highly visible nature of the roles and minimal risks to the integrity of government, we agree with the committee’s advice that further action would be disproportionate in this case.”

Mr Dowden also said in the letter, dated December 5 but published on Wednesday, that applications for roles of limited risk “should be processed in a more streamlined manner” and that his officials were working with Acoba to change the process.

Under the current rules, Mr Hancock should seek clearance from Acoba for any new employment or appointments he takes on within two years of leaving office.

But in November, Mr Hancock argued he did not believe he needed to ask the body’s permission for either show “as the guidelines state that one-off media appearances such as these do not count as an appointment or employment”.

A spokesperson for Mr Hancock said: “Matt’s glad they are now changing the Acoba rules after the total muddle they got themselves into.

“Matt clearly followed the rules when he went into the jungle, as any cursory glance at their website demonstrates.

“The idea there’s a business conflict going onto the programme is absurd. Now they’re updating the rules to make that completely clear, not a moment too soon.”

His appearances on the two shows proved controversial, with his lucrative stint in the Australian jungle while the House was sitting resulting in him losing the Conservative whip.

Mr Hancock announced earlier this month that he will not be standing as an MP at the next election.

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