Thursday 10 October 2019 7:01 pm

Potential loophole paves the way for conflicts of interest at HS2

Downing Street is being urged to close a route that could allow former High Speed 2 (HS2) rail executives to become consultants on the project without the usual vetting procedures.

A number of former HS2 executives currently work at consultancy firms that advise on the controversial rail project, including former chief executive Simon Kirby.

However HS2 is exempt from having to register the appointment of former ministers and senior officials to the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba), according to the Financial Times.

This is normally required to safeguard against potential conflicts of interest.

Kirby, for instance, now works as a consultant with the Nichols Group – a company that has earned millions from consulting HS2 – though the FT reported no registration has been made with Acoba.

A Nichols Group spokesman said Kirby had worked for Rolls-Royce for more than a year after working for HS2, and has had “no involvement with HS2 whatsoever since leaving the company in December 2016”.

He added: “Nichols Group and its consultants have behaved entirely properly in accordance with the rules laid down by government.”

Sir Bernard Jenkin, chair of the public administration and constitutional affairs committee, told the FT he was disappointed at the lack of effectiveness by Acoba.

In a statement to the newspaper, HS2 said it has “strict protocols in place to prevent any perceived or actual conflict of interest with current or future suppliers”.