Matt Hancock breached the government’s rules on post-ministerial jobs by not consulting parliament’s anti-corruption watchdog before appearing on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, the body’s Tory chairman has said.
In a letter to Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden, Lord Pickles said: “I am writing to you in my capacity as chair of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) to bring to your attention a breach of the government’s business appointment rules.
“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 rules, Mr Hancock should seek clearance from Acoba for any new employment or appointments he takes on within two years of leaving office.
Lord Pickles said it was up to Mr Dowden to decide “what appropriate action to take”.
However, he recommended that no further action should be taken.
He said “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”.
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In a letter to Lord Pickles earlier this month, Mr Hancock claimed 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, writing 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.”
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.”
Mr Hancock has faced strong criticism for appearing on the reality show and had the Tory whip suspended for joining at a time when parliament is sitting.
The West Suffolk MP has previously stressed the first thing he will do after leaving the jungle will be to return to Suffolk and hold a surgery with his constituents.