McVey broke rules over GB News job, Cabinet Office told

Former work and pensions secretary should have sought Acoba approval for new presenting role, watchdog says
Photo: Mark Kerrison/Alamy Live News

Former work and pensions secretary Esther McVey has become the latest ex-minister to get into hot water over a post-government job after failing to report her position as a correspondent for the television channel GB News.

The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments has written to Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay alerting him that McVey broke anti-lobbying rules when she took up her news job without first applying for the anti-corruption watchdog’s go-ahead.

McVey, the Conservative MP for Tatton, has been contributing to GB News since it launched in June. She was a housing minister at the time, but lost that job in July.

In an email exchange with Acoba chair Eric Pickles last month, McVey said she had believed she did not need to contact the committee when she first joined GB News as a contributor.

She said she had since become a presenter for the channel.

“Clearly, anyone can see that my role does not draw on any privileged information from my time as a minister,” added the politician, who worked on the BBC's GMTV show in the 1990s before becoming an MP.

But in his response, Lord Pickles said McVey’s approach was “not in keeping" with the business appointment rules, which he said “exist to protect the integrity of government".

In his letter to Barclay, Pickles reiterated: “the ministerial code is clear that an application is needed for all outside roles”.

“No matter the potential limitation in the risk, this is not for applicants to determine and so not seeking advice is a breach of the government’s rules here,” he said.

Pickles said while it would be up to Barclay to decide how to deal with the breach, he felt further action would be “disproportionate” given McVey’s presenting job would be transparent by nature.

The letter is the latest sent to the Cabinet Office highlighting a breach of the rules. Earlier this week, Cabinet Office minister Nicholas True confirmed the department would not sanction former chancellor Philip Hammond for contacting Treasury officials on behalf of OakNorth Bank, where he is an adviser.

This summer, Acoba refused to issue advice on an application by ex-political adviser Dominic Cummings for a consulting job, after it discovered he was already advertising similar paid services online.

A month ago, the Committee on Standards in Public Life recommended a series of reforms including strengthening Acoba's powers and introducing “meaningful sanctions” for ex-ministers and officials that break lobbying rules.

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