Cabinet Minister Oliver Dowden has agreed with Parliament’s anti-corruption watchdog that Matt Hancock broke government rules by not consulting the body before appearing on reality TV shows.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster also accepted the advice of the Advisory Committee for Professional Appointments (Acoba) that any disciplinary action would be ‘disproportionate’ and that the rules should be changed.
The watchdog, which reviews post-ministerial jobs, slammed the former health secretary for signing up to I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! and Channel 4’s SAS Who Dares Wins without his permission.
In a letter to Tory Acoba chairman Lord Pickles, Mr Dowden wrote: ‘I agree with the committee’s assessment that Mr Hancock failed to adhere to the company appointment rules by failing to seek the advice of the committee before registering for these appearances…
“Due to the highly visible nature of the roles and the minimal risks to the integrity of government, we agree with the committee’s view that further action would be disproportionate in this case.”
Mr. Dowden also said in the letter, dated December 5 but released on Wednesday, that applications for limited-risk roles “should be processed in a more streamlined manner” and that his officials were working with Acoba to change the process.
Under current rules, Mr Hancock would have to seek Acoba’s clearance for any new job or appointment he takes within two years of leaving.
But in November, Mr Hancock argued that he did not think he needed to seek permission from the body for either broadcast “because the guidelines state that one-off media appearances such as these do not count as an appointment or employment”.
A spokesman for Mr Hancock said: ‘Matt is happy that they are now changing the Acoba rules after the total confusion they have gotten themselves into.
“Matt clearly followed the rules when he went to the jungle, as any quick look on their website shows.
“The idea that there is a business conflict over the program is absurd. Now they’re updating the rules to make that completely clear, not a moment too soon.
His appearances on both shows proved controversial, with his lucrative stint in the Australian jungle while the House was sitting earning him the loss of the Tory Whip.
Mr Hancock announced earlier this month that he would not stand as an MP in the next election.