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Last Updated: Monday, 21 January 2008, 10:50 GMT
What Blair's ministers did next
By Laura Kuenssberg
Political correspondent, BBC News

Patricia Hewitt, who used to be the health secretary, has got herself a job at Boots the Chemist.

Patricia Hewitt
Patricia Hewiitt brings useful experience to her new job

Not behind the counter of course, she will be an adviser to one of the biggest pharmacy led groups in the world, for about three weeks of the year.

It is easy to see why Boots would want advice from a politician who a spent a couple of years making decisions about the country's healthcare.

Under Ms Hewitt's guidance, companies like Boots were invited to bid to open GPs surgeries on their premises.

And it is not hard to see why having escaped the red box treadmill, former ministers are eager to top up their MPs' earnings, and keep a foothold in something other than their constituency business.

Blair's plum role

Ms Hewitt tells me her constituency is her first priority, but she will also have to juggle another new job, at Cinven which, she tells me, is one of the biggest corporate buy-out groups in the world.

NEW JOBS
Tony Blair: Adviser, JP Morgan
Patricia Hewitt: Adviser, Boots, Cinven
Lord Goldsmith: Law firm
John Reid: Celtic chairman
Stephen Ladyman: Adviser, Transport firm
Ian McCartney: Adviser, nuclear industry
Richard Caborn: Adviser, nuclear industry

They also happen just recently to have paid nearly 1.5bn to buy 25 hospitals from private healthcare group BUPA.

Ms Hewitt was always a keen advocate of the NHS using private sector facilities.

Ms Hewitt is not the only minister to have suddenly found themselves with time for a little extra work recently - Tony Blair's departure cleared out much of Labour's front bench.

Mr Blair, of course, has landed a plum appointment, advising US investment bank JP Morgan, for reportedly as much as $5m (2.5m) a year. Not bad for a few days' work.

In fact, 11 ministers in total have taken up private sector jobs since June last year when the Blairites ceded control of Number 10.

Closer to home

Lord Goldsmith, the government's former top legal adviser, has gone back to the legal profession, taking a job with a major law firm.

John Reid, who had done more jobs than anyone else round the Cabinet table, won out, being offered his dream job, becoming chairman of Celtic football club, the team he has supported for decades.

Neither of those jobs have attracted much fuss, as they are pretty far removed from the appointees' former Cabinet briefs.

John Reid
John Reid is enjoying his new life as a football chairman

But what about those appointments, like Ms Hewitt's, that might seem a little closer to home - such as Dr Stephen Ladyman, a former transport minister, who has taken up a job advising a transport company?

Or former ministers Ian McCartney and Richard Caborn, who have both taken up lucrative posts advising the nuclear industry - just as the government gives the green light for a new generation of nuclear stations?

Well, an obscure Whitehall organisation exists precisely to prevent any potential conflicts of interest.

Lobbying ban

The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments was set up in 1975 to advise prime ministers on whether former ministers, and former public servants, diplomats and the like, should be allowed to take up certain jobs.

What started out as a relatively informal group who may have had a quiet word or two in the PM's ear is now a formal Westminster committee that has expanded, partly as a result of a big increase in the traffic between the private and the public sector.

The committee makes decisions about each case on its merits, but the general rules are quite clear.

Cabinet ministers are expected to wait at least three months after leaving their post before taking up their new job.

And they are often told, as in Ms Hewitt's case, that they have to avoid certain activities for a longer period.

She will not be allowed to lobby the government directly for a year after she stepped down.

Suspicion

But what counts as lobbying? A conversation that happens by chance in the tearoom in the House of Commons?

Without a clear definition, it is almost impossible to police that rule completely.

Former ministers are obliged to consult the committee before taking a new job.

And the appointments all now appear online, so the public can track what former ministers and other MPs are up to.

But the rules, there to counter suspicion, will not stop the talk whenever an ex-minister walks out of government into a well paid job in the private sector.

Here is a selection of your comments:

Personally I don't have a problem with MP's, Ministers and others taking lucrative Jobs in the City. We believe in a free market and free speech, so therefore we have to believe in freedom to accept a job. A MP's Job span could be very short and they need a future as much as normal people do, plus this doesn't apply to all MP's either. I am sure there was an article on the BBC News website saying that a large majority of ex-MP's take a long time to get jobs when they lose there seats, thus meaning they need to plan for the future like we have to. There are a few MP's who use their position for financial gain - but can we really blame them? Would we be any different?
Gareth, Wroclaw, Poland

It's worrying when a minister is offered a high profile private sector job soon after leaving office. While there is absolutely no evidence that Ms Hewitt has done anything wrong, or shown Boots any favouritism while she was a health minister, all politicians need to be above suspicion. Frankly, given her appalling track record it's difficult to see why they would want her. It's an absolute disgrace that patients are denied anti-dementia drugs.
mycal miller, London

If a former MP or Minister takes a position that has been offered to them because of their experiences gained while being an MP or Minister, then perhaps they should lose the right to the rather generous pension that they are entitled to when they stand down.
AC, London

The Government are selling off parts of primary care by stealth, to large, mainly American corporations. This happens in secret negotiations and in preference to local GPs. There will be plenty in the trough for the snouts of the ministers responsible once they are booted out at the next election (or sacked for 'incompetence').
Alison Bialystock, Birmingham

I have no quibbles with Mrs. Hewitt - if her experience helps Boots along the way, so be it. Maybe it will make Boots a better company! But, seriously, many people forget a simple fact: if the ex-ministers hadn't gone to politics, they could have easily become successful businesspeople. And they get paid A LOT more than anyone in the public sector. Face it: we're only moaning because we're jealous that we don't paid as much as them.
Charles Barry, Frodsham

Let the writers of this item be fair about it and list the jobs that leading Tories and Lib Dems have acquired. Whether you are for it or against it this does cut across all the political parties.
Robert Murray, Nottingham

This situation has been around longer than Labour, but the companies offering these advisory roles to ex-ministers are paying for their contacts and inside knowledge of how to play the system. But as with MPs pay etc., as long as the poachers are also the gamekeepers nothing will change and we can have no real confidence that all is above board.
Ian, Edinburgh

It is perfectly natural for ex government ministers to take up prestigious roles. They do have an enormous amount of experience after all. As for the role of an MP being a full time position - they don't exactly have a lot of time for their constituency when they're in a ministerial position. If Gordon Brown had just taken over as leader of your party you'd want a role elsewhere...
Andrew, York

Things have altered. Labour MPs used to believe that being an MP was a full-time job - for which they are now paid reasonably well by the taxpayer. A fair number of former Labour ministers now seem to treat their ministerial experience, know-how and contacts as lucrative sources of personal remuneration. Since we, the voters, gave them the opportunity in the first place, perhaps we deserve a percentage cut from their additional sources of emoluments?
Eric Shaw, Dunblane

Whether it should be allowed or not I do not know. What it does do and has done for many years is reduce belief and faith in these people, they all want massive wage rises yet have quangos all over the place, whilst wanting narrow rises for those who really do work for their money. You can't help but feel the whole government reeks of corruption and bias.
dan house, berkshire

This is a government that has required NHS consultants to offer an extra sessions work to their employer before they do any private work IN THEIR OWN FREE TIME. Yet politicians like Hewitt can freely take on these other roles as well as their main job as a member of parliament, without any restrictions. Oh, and they vote themselves a pay increase, whilst the rest of us get 2.5%. One law for us, and another for them !
Matt, Plymouth, UK

Another smell from New Labour politicians. Not satisfied with lucrative index linked pensions they want more gold by spilling the beans on how government departments operate and no doubt contacting cronies still in power for inside information. Corruption is the only word to describe these activities.
Laurence Escreet, Hull



SEE ALSO
Tony Blair joins investment bank
10 Jan 08 |  Business
Reid unfazed by Celtic protests
19 Nov 07 |  Celtic
MP attacks nuclear job ministers
15 Nov 07 |  UK Politics
What happened to Team Blair?
27 Dec 07 |  UK Politics

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