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Anger as failures over government 'revolving door' rules exposed by watchdog

Anger as failures over government 'revolving door' rules exposed by watchdog

Emilio Casalicchio

2 min read

Major failures in the system to police the so-called "revolving door" between government and business have been revealed in a damning watchdog report.


Staff moving into business might not be seeking clearance from the relevant authorities and departments are not checking whether restrictions are being followed, the National Audit Office said.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said the system for overseeing business appointments should be "put down" since it "doesn't work" and "has no teeth".

Officials are supposed to get the green light from departments before they take up private sector jobs. 

Often permission comes with restrictions such as a ban on lobbying the government for two years to prevent civil servants benefiting from inside knowledge and contacts.

But according to the NAO it is impossible to know from departmental records whether all those who should be getting clearance are doing so.

Of the eight departments it observed, three had never published information about the outcomes of business appointments.

The NAO also found departments are not telling employers their new recruits come with lobbying restrictions.

Just one of the eight departments did so consistently - while only six notifications had been sent by others to firms, despite at least 187 rulings.

"One department told us that it never writes to prospective employers but it expects leavers to share the department’s decision with their new employer," the NAO said.

The watchdog lamented that departments are failing to check whether their former employees are keeping to the restrictions imposed on their work.

Astonishingly, it said the Cabinet Office - which has the right to check if all the rules are being properly applied - was neglecting to do so.

'NO TEETH'

Mr Farron said: “This damning report shows not enough is being done to address the risks of the revolving door between government and big business.

“It shows that the Government has a system that doesn’t work, has no teeth and isn't even being properly implemented.

“If the watchdog does not bark, it is time to put it down.”

A Cabinet Office Spokesperson said: "As the NAO have acknowledged, this is an issue that government takes extremely seriously.

"The importance of complying fully with the Business Appointment Rules is set out in a civil servant’s terms and conditions of employment, and these are therefore legally binding.

"We will carefully consider the full report and its findings."

A separate system for policing the 'revolving door' for ministers and the most senior civil servants - the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments - has also faced charges of being ineffectual.

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