McVey escapes sanction for breach of appointments rules

Cabinet Office confirms former housing minister will face no action over failure to get clearance to join public-speaking agency
Esther McVey, wearing a grey suit and holding a red folder, flicks her hair behind her approaching No.10

By Jim Dunton

06 Apr 2022

Former housing minister Esther McVey will not be subjected to any Cabinet Office sanctions for breaching anti-corruption rules by joining a public-speaking agency without seeking formal approval.

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.

In February the watchdog, which polices the post-government jobs sought by former ministers and high-ranking civil servants, flagged a further breach as McVey joined the agency within two years of her last government job without getting the move cleared.

Acoba chair Eric Pickles, the former communities secretary, published a letter to Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay setting out McVey’s latest offence. But he noted that McVey had argued she only gave one speech, which in itself was not a breach of the rules.

In a decision letter published this week, Cabinet Office minister Nicholas True acknowledged McVey’s failings but argued that her breach of the appointment rules was “minor” and that transparency over the issue was sanction enough.

“From the correspondence you enclosed in your letter, I understand that Ms McVey has carried out just one speaking engagement, and I concur that if this were a one-off speech, she would not have been required to seek the committee’s advice,” Lord True wrote to Lord Pickles.

“However, as Ms McVey joined the speaking agency to take up this paid opportunity, I agree that Ms McVey should have sought Acoba’s advice in this instance.

“I note Ms McVey’s confirmation that, contrary to the press coverage of this speech, she did not provide advice on lobbying or discuss her former ministerial role during this engagement.

“I agree with the committee’s assessment that this is a minor breach, and further action would be disproportionate in this case.”

He concluded: “The publication of your correspondence has, in itself, ensured public transparency on this issue and clarity in relation to any future declarations.”

McVey’s last job in government was as minister of state at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, where she served from July 2019 to February 2020. Prior to that she served as work and pensions secretary from January to November 2018.

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