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Ban ministers from lobbying for up to five years after leaving office, watchdog demands

LABOUR promised today to “clean up our politics” after the standards watchdog called for government ministers to be banned from lobbying companies for up to five years after leaving office.

Committee on standards in public life chairman Lord Evans said that standards regulations in England require a significant overhaul in the wake of the Greensill Capital scandal.

In April, it was revealed that former prime minister David Cameron had bombarded ministers with calls and messages in an effort to win access to Covid-19 cash support programmes for the financial firm, which collapsed in March. 

Under current rules, ministers and top civil servants are effectively barred from lobbying their former colleagues for two years after leaving their post.

As there were more than two years between Mr Cameron’s resignation as prime minister in 2016 and him taking up his advisory role at Greensill Capital, his actions were permissible under current rules.

He was not required to inform the advisory committee on business appointments (Acoba), which considers applications under the business appointment rules concerning new jobs for former ministers and officials.

In its preliminary report on an ongoing review of the rules, the standards committee mentions the ex-prime minister, under whom Lord Evans served as MI5 chief for three years, when it recommends that lobbying through informal channels such as WhatsApp should be reported to civil servants.

Mr Cameron has denied any wrongdoing. 

Backing the committee’s recommendations, Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner branded the current system “unfit for purpose.”

She said: “The prime minister should not be the ultimate arbiter of the ministerial code, allowing him to mark his own homework and let ministers get away with breaking the rules. 

“The toothless Acoba system has failed to address the revolving door between big business and Whitehall and requires urgent reform.

“Labour will clean up our politics after the Tories have polluted it with their cronyism and sleaze, starting with a single ethics and integrity commission that will have the powers to oversee and enforce ethics regulations.”

Labour MP Jon Trickett added: “It’s been clear for some time that our democracy is threatened by big money.

“Professional lobbying needs to be clamped down upon and the power of money driven out of politics.”

The standards committee, created in 1994 following the cash-for-questions scandal, will publish its final report later this year.

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