By Sophie Wingate, PA Political Correspondent
Matt Hancock has broken UK government rules by not consulting Parliament’s anti-corruption watchdog before appearing on I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!, the body’s chairman has ruled.
Lord Pickles, the Tory chair of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) – which advises on post-ministerial jobs, informed UK Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden of the breach in a letter on Tuesday.
Any disciplinary action would be decided by the Cabinet Office, but Lord Pickles said he believed further action would be “disproportionate”.
Lord Pickles told Mr Dowden he was writing “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.
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”.
— I'm A Celebrity... (@imacelebrity) November 21, 2022
But, writing to Mr Hancock, Lord Pickles countered: “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.”
On a potential punishment, Lord Pickles told Mr Dowden: “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.”