'Corruption Risk' of Ex-Ministers Walking Straight into Top Jobs

Article excerpt

Byline: Jason Groves Political Correspondent

WEAK rules policing the way former ministers take up lucrative jobs in the private sector put Britain at 'high risk of corruption', a damning report warned yesterday.

The study criticises the cosy system that is supposed to monitor the so-called 'revolving door' between government and big business. It claims the rules - which have allowed a string of lucrative jobs for former ministers such as Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson to be simply rubberstamped - are so lax that they 'undermine trust in government'.

In addition, it shows more than half of all leading civil servants now take up well-paid jobs in the private sector after leaving Whitehall.

The report, by the respected campaign group Transparency International, warns that only a lifetime ban on lobbying might be enough to ease public concerns about the way ministers and officials in 'high risk' areas such as defence and health move seamlessly into top jobs.

Chandrashekhar Krishnan, of Transparency International, said: 'The revolving door between government and business is spinning out of control.

'There have been far too many cases of officials moving between the two in circumstances which suggest a serious conflict of interest. This has created an environment in which corruption risks are high.

'We need a more robust system with greater transparency and tighter rules which can be properly enforced.' The study highlights a string of cases where former ministers and civil servants have taken jobs in industries they were previously in charge of.

It says there are real risks that a senior official or minister might favour a company 'with a view to ingratiating himself or herself with that company and thus opening up a path to future employment'.

It also warns that former ministers might be able to benefit commercially from information gained in public office.

The findings were welcomed last night by Labour MP Paul Flynn, a member of the Commons public administration committee.

He said: 'The system of polic-ing the revolving door is a scandal that is potentially worse than the expenses scandal - and certainly more damaging to the country.' Under the existing rules, ministers and top civil servants have to notify the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) of any new jobs taken up within two years of leaving office. …