Rupert McNeil told The Telegraph that it would be “unpatriotic”; not contact the relevant ministers about the Lincoln Storm. Credit: House of Commons/PA Wire
The former head of the government's personnel department committed “multiple violations” of lobbying rules when he approached four cabinet ministers as well as high-ranking officials on behalf of his new employers, an official watchdog ruled.
Lord Pickles, who chairs the Akoba Business Appointments Advisory Committee, said that Rupert McNeill, the former government chief of staff, “choosed to blatantly ignore” the warning against any attempts to influence government decisions when he left Whitehall.
Mr. McNeill denied lobbying, insisted he was not breaking the rules and claimed that Akoba was “not up to the mark”. He told The Telegraph that he was trying to highlight the “legal error” of the EPA, which “does not lobby.”
The case will heighten concerns about the risk that former officials and ministers will turn to government officials to represent the interests new employers as they move into lucrative private sector jobs.
Lord Pickles has previously described Akoba as a “toothless” organization as it can only advise retiring civil servants and ministers on how to abide by lobbying rules and has no power to impose sanctions on those found guilty of wrongdoing. Ministers are considering plans to impose financial sanctions on those who ignore Akoba's lobbying bans.
Contact 'likely to fail'
Last year, Mr. McNeil wrote to Akoba for formal advice on becoming the executive chairman of Lincoln Storm, the Isle of Man battery recycling firm, after he left his government position. He told the commission that his role “would not include any lobbying, but he could liaise with the government on issues related to logistics, licenses, permits, etc.”
In a formal letter of recommendation, Akoba said that Mr. McNeil should not lobby the government for two years after he left Whitehall. In a further email exchange, he was told that “a former high-ranking official who has approached the government for help in obtaining a license or resolving regulatory issues … will most likely not comply with the lobbying ban imposed on all government officials at your level.”
Added in the email that the rules do not “prevent you from ever contacting HMG [His Majesty's Government], but you should be careful about how and what that contact looks like.”
Mr. McNeil was subsequently reported to Akoba by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs after contacting Teresa Coffey, Minister of the Environment, Kemi Badenoch, Business Secretary, and Grant Shapps, then Secretary of Energy Security, among at least half a dozen ministers and officials on behalf of Lincoln Storm. in April.
Mr. McNeill said he had never met Ms. Coffey, Ms. Badenock, or Mr. Shapps and that his contacts with the business and energy ministers were limited to copying their correspondence.
On April 21, he wrote It's in the Environmental Protection Agency. year to reiterate concerns over the resolution of an issue regarding a prohibition notice posted on a shipping container of Lincoln Storm products.
In this letter, he said he sent copies to private individuals, including Ms. Coffey, Mr. -ju Badenoch and Mr. Shapps.
Four days later, he wrote to Ms. Coffey “to point out errors” in the agency's approach. “If the promotion I was told about today happens, it could make the already overburdened Lincoln Storm Limited economically unviable,” he said.
Lord Pickles has now raised this issue with Oliver Dowden. Deputy Prime Minister. In a letter to Mr. Dowden, a Conservative colleague said of Mr. McNeil, “As a former head of human resources, he had knowledge throughout the civil service and therefore across all departments.”
“He was also informed that this contact, while routine, was not suitable for him while he was under a lobbying ban.
“It is disappointing that he chose to blatantly ignore the advice provided . I think this is more than a reasonable concern. It could be assumed that Mr. McNeill used his time in government to influence decisions and actions within the government and its independent bodies for potential commercial gain.”
Lord Pickles added: “Now it's up to you to decide what action to take.”
“Akoba is not up to the mark.”
Mr McNeil claims Lord Pickles' letters are “slanderous”. In his reply to a colleague, Mr McNeil said: “From these various Delphic comments made by or on behalf of Akoba, I was entitled to conclude that I was not prohibited from contacting the government and that I should have used my own judgment in doing so.
He added: “I do not admit that I 'influenced' the government's decision in the sense provided by the Rules, given the existence of an excluded category of permitted contacts recognized by the Committee.
“Our the exchange of views shows that Akoba is not up to the mark.”
Mr McNeill added to The Telegraph: “What would be lobbying is if I said: I think you should change the law.”< /p>
Under the circumstances, it would be “unpatriotic” not to contact the relevant ministers, he insisted.