A parliamentary committee has judged that former chancellor Phillip Hammond, breached lobbying rules.
The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) claims that by contacting a senior Treasury secretary on behalf of a bank he works for Lord Hammond broke committee guidance.
Hammond defended the action in a letter to committee chair Lord Eric Pickles. He said that the advice he received from ACOBA prohibited him from making communications on behalf of OakNorth bank for the purpose of securing business and insisted his correspondence with HM Treasury had not contravened these rules.
Hammond explained that OakNorth had reached out to the Bank of England and HM Treasury without his involvement to showcase a product which helped to measure the impact of coronavirus of different sub-sectors of the economy which was offered to the government free of charge.
The former Chancellor subsequently emailed the 2nd Permanent Secretary at HMT to follow up on the meeting. Ultimately, the government did not decide to use the tool.
While the watchdog conceded that “it was not a blatant and deliberate” breach of the Rules, Pickles said that “due to the significant overlap” between Hammond’s role as Chancellor and the employing organisation, OakNorth, contacting a Treasury official directly on the bank’s behalf was “unwise.”
The group claims that Hammond sought an injunction against the committee to prevent the publication of its findings, a claim which the former Chancellor denies.
The news comes as government ministers face accusations of nepotism as part of the Greensill scandal which centres around lobbying by former Prime Minister, David Cameron, on behalf of the firm Greensill Capital to gain the company privileged access to government loans.
ACOBA plans to tighten its rules by the end of the year and will reportedly be given greater enforcement powers.