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Tue, 14 July 2020

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Boris Johnson ticked off by appointments watchdog over new Telegraph role

Boris Johnson ticked off by appointments watchdog over new Telegraph role
3 min read

Boris Johnson has been criticised for taking up the role as a columnist for the Telegraph before getting approval from the watchdog which governs ex-ministers’ conflicts of interests.

The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) said it was “unacceptable” that Mr Johnson informed it that he had taken the job a fortnight after he signed the contract with the paper.

Ex-ministers are expected to obtain the Committee’s advice ahead of taking up any posts within two years of having left office.

They are also expected to observe a minimum three-month "waiting period" from leaving a Government post before taking up outside appointments.

It comes amid pressure on the former foreign secretary to apologise for a controversial column in which he said women who wear the burqa look like bank robbers and letterboxes.

The Conservative party today confirmed the comments would be investigated through an inquiry.

However in a separate development, Acoba – which monitors the so-called ‘revolving door’ between former ministers, advisers and senior civil servants going into the private sector – published its advice to Mr Johnson.

In a letter, it said: “It became public knowledge you would be taking up a role when The Telegraph started to advertise your ‘new weekly column’ on the weekend of 14 and 15 July 218.

“You have confirmed that you signed a contract with the Telegraph on 12 July 2018, yet the Committee did not receive your application until 26 July 2018.

“The Committee considers it to be unacceptable that you signed a contract with The Telegraph and your appointment was announced before you had sought and obtained advice from the Committee, as was incumbent on you leaving office under the Government’s Business Appointment Rules...”

“Failure to seek advice before the Telegraph made public you would be taking on this work and before signing a contract was a failure to comply with your duty to seek advice.”

They added: “The Committee sees no reason why the minimum three month waiting period should not have been observed in this case and considers that your entering into this appointment within a few days of leaving office without seeking the advice of the Committee was a breach of the Rules.

The letter said Mr Johnson had been warned of his obligations to tell the committee on 9 July by top foreign office official Sir Simon McDonald – although he is said to have responded saying he did not receive his letter until after he took the role.

Acoba does not have the power to block former ministers’ jobs and has been called “toothless” by a committee of MPs in the past.

The Committee said Mr Johnson had since confirmed that he will not make use of any privileged information while serving as foreign secretary.

Furthermore he will ask bosses at the Telegraph to include a clause in his contract which stipulates that he cannot make use of such information.

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