Ban ministers from lobbying for five years after office, recommends anti-corruption watchdog

David Cameron - Victoria Jones/PA
David Cameron - Victoria Jones/PA

Ministers should be banned from political lobbying for up to five years after leaving office, the anti-corruption watchdog is set to recommend ministers in the wake of the Greensill scandal.

Lord Evans, chairman of the committee on standards in public life, will air the proposal in an emergency review of lobbying guidelines to be published on Monday, following the saga involving David Cameron, the former prime minister.

With the controversy sparking intense public scrutiny of the rules governing current and former ministers and other office-holders, Lord Evans's report will demand an overhaul aimed at preventing ex-ministers using their contacts and expertise for personal gain, according to the Sunday Times.

The report will "single out David Cameron", under whom Lord Evans served as MI5 chief for three years, in concluding that the current rules are "inadequate". It will also demand ministers "disclose informal lobbying over WhatsApp and text messages", the paper reported.

Lord Evans's interim report will recommend introducing anti-lobbying clauses to the employment contracts of ministers, special advisers and civil servants, as well as a system of possible civil penalties for rule breakers.

Other recommendations include banning ministers "from taking jobs for two years in sectors over which they had direct responsibility in office", and giving the appointments watchdog power to apply tailored restrictions "including banning ex-ministers from taking certain jobs for up to five years 'where appropriate'," the paper said.

The Government would also be made to release details of lobbying every four weeks, rather than quarterly, and regulate the appointment of non-executive directors to Whitehall departments to prevent politicians appointing "cronies".

The Sunday Times said Lord Evans will tell BBC Radio 4's Westminster Hour on Monday: "I do think there needs to be greater transparency about lobbying. There's nothing wrong with lobbying in principle, but there needs to be a level playing field and it needs to be done visibly."

Mr Cameron has been embroiled in a lobbying controversy after revelations earlier this year that he texted Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, on behalf of Greensill Capital, a finance firm which employed him as a lobbyist.

It was also revealed Mr Cameron sent a succession of WhatsApp messages to Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, and other ministers over a single Covid loan scheme.

The committee on standards in public life was created in 1994 following the "cash-for-questions" scandal, and its recommendations since have provided the foundation for major anti-corruption reforms.