Former housing minister Esther McVey has been criticised by the government’s anti-corruption watchdog for the second time in three months, after it emerged she joined a public-speaking agency without seeking formal approval for the role.
McVey, who was a presenter on ITV’s GMTV in the 1990s, was chastised by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments last year for failing to report a new job as a correspondent on GB News.
Former ministers and senior civil servants are required to report prospective post-government appointments to Acoba for two years after their last day of service in government so that the committee can examine whether it is an appropriate role and advise on any restrictions before the post is taken up. Sometimes Acoba advises that the post is not appropriate and should not be taken up, although it does not publish names and details in such cases.
Just-published correspondence between Acoba chair Lord Eric Pickles and Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay reveals McVey joined a speaking agency and gave a talk titled “How to run a successful campaign as a backbench MP” without seeking clearance for the role.
It is now just over two years since she left government, where her last role was as minister of state at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, however she was still subject to Acoba rules at the time.
In his letter to Barclay, Pickles said that Acoba’s guidance was clear that joining a speaking agency was an appointment that required the committee’s consideration.
“Not seeking advice was therefore a breach of the government’s rules here,” he said.
The correspondence revealed that McVey said she had only taken on one speaking engagement since she left government and argued it was a one-off event that did not require approval.
Pickles conceded that one-off speaking engagements did not require approval but stressed that McVey should have reported her intention to join an agency.
“While this appears to me a minor breach in the circumstances, it is the second such breach by McVey,” he wrote.
“It is also another indication that not all ministers and former crown servants are sufficiently clear on the various standards of behaviour, rules and legislation that are incumbent on them.”
Pickles said he would leave it to Barclay to decide if any further action was required.