Matt Hancock was found to have broken Government rules by not consulting Parliament’s anti-corruption watchdog before appearing on ‘I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!’ Lord Pickles, the Tory chair of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) – which advises on post-ministerial jobs – informed Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden of the breach in a letter today. Lord Pickles said he was writing to Mr Dowden to bring to his attention “a breach of the Government’s Business Appointment Rules”.
He said: “Mr Hancock did not seek Acoba’s advice before signing up to two television series, ITV’s I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! and Channel 4’s SAS Who Dares Wins.”
Under the Government’s Business Appointment Rues, Mr Hancock should have sought clearance from Acoba for any new employment or appointments he takes on within two years of leaving office.
Any disciplinary action would be decided by the Cabinet Office, but Lord Pickles said he believed further action would be “disproportionate”.
Mr Hancock previously claimed in a letter to Lord Pickles that he did not believe he needed to ask the body’s permission for either show “as the guidelines state that one-off media appearances such as these do not count as an appointment or employment”.
But, responding to Mr Hancock, Lord Pickles said: “The rules are clear that an application is required where individuals plan a series of media activities and it is for Acoba to assess the associated risks.
“As such, failing to seek and await advice before these roles were announced or taken up in this case is a breach of the Government’s rules and the requirements set out in the ministerial code.”
Referring to possible sanctions for Mr Hancock in his letter to Mr Dowden, Lord Pickles said: “It is a matter for you to decide what appropriate action to take.
“However, given the transparent nature of Mr Hancock’s role which is limited to appearing on these shows… I believe it would be disproportionate to take any further action in this case.”
A spokesperson for Mr Hancock said: “The Acoba website clearly states that it does not regard media appearances as an appointment or employment.
“The guidance on the website was followed in good faith.”