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Last Updated: Monday, 31 October 2005, 22:01 GMT
In full: Blunkett affair letters
Here is the full text of letters from Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell about whether David Blunkett should have asked a government committee before taking up a business directorship when he was out of the Cabinet earlier this year.


Dear David,

You asked me to clarify the procedure in relation to the business appointment system for former ministers.

Section 5.29 of the ministerial code states that former ministers should seek advice from the independent advisory committee on business appointments about any appointments they wish to take up within two years of leaving office (this does not apply to unpaid appointments in non-commercial organisations or appointments in the gift of the government).

Having received the advice of the advisory committee, it is for former ministers to decide whether or not to accept it - and it is this part of the process as recommended by the Nolan Committee, which is voluntary and advisory. If a former minister decides to take up an outside appointment against the advice of the advisory committee, the committee's advice will be made public.

I am taking steps to ensure that the status of the system is clear. Future correspondence or other literature about the system issued by the Cabinet Office will have a clear statement at the outset setting out the requirements under the ministerial code for former ministers to seek the advice of the advisory committee. Any such correspondence or literature should then go on to make clear that former ministers are not obliged to follow the advice they receive from the committee but that if they do not follow the advice and take up the appointment, the committee's advice will be made public. I have asked Cabinet Office officials to speak to the advisory committee to ensure that their correspondence and literature repeats this requirement.

Yours ever, Gus.


Dear Mr Grayling,

Thank you for your letter of 30 October.

Section 1 of the ministerial code makes clear that ministers are personally responsible for deciding how to act and conduct themselves in the light of the code and for justifying their actions and conduct in Parliament. The code is not a rulebook, and it is not the role of the Cabinet secretary or other officials to enforce it or to investigate ministers. Therefore, it is not for me to comment on whether there was been any breach of the ministerial code.

However, I can confirm that, in accordance with the requirements of the ministerial code, on 18 May David Blunkett notified his permanent secretary that his sons had a 3% shareholding in DNA Bioscience, which is held in a trust for them. DNA Bioscience does not have any contracts with the DWP [Department of Work and Pensions] or the CSA [Child Support Agency] and it is not currently in any discussions with them about future work. The department's officials are aware of Mr Blunkett's history with this company and appropriate safeguards would be put in place to avoid any conflict of interest were contractual issues relating to DNA Bioscience's area of business to arise in the future.

In relation to the fact that Mr Blunkett did not seek the advice of the advisory committee on business appointments, he has made a full statement on this and I have nothing further to add.

Yours sincerely,

Gus O'Donnell.

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