Page last updated at 08:37 GMT, Friday, 13 February 2009

Whitehall chiefs' perks revealed

Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon
Wimbledon proved a popular destination for mandarins

The hospitality enjoyed by top civil servants - including meals, trips to the opera, tennis and cricket matches - has been revealed for the first time.

The details, for 2007, show seven Whitehall chiefs, including civil service head Sir Gus O'Donnell, went free to the Wimbledon championships.

Chief of the Defence Staff Sir Jock Stirrup was among those attending.

Business department permanent secretary Sir Brian Bender declared 47 free meals during the period.

Sir Brian, due to retire next month, also went to Wimbledon and other events including the Derby and the Chelsea Flower Show, as well as being wined and dined by some of the UK's biggest companies.

Sir Gus attended the Chelsea Flower show as a guest of accountancy firm KPMG, Wimbledon courtesy of the All England Lawn Tennis Club and an England football match paid for by the FA.

'Life training'

The report shows that he donated 300 to leukaemia research to cover the cost of the latter.

Jonathan Stephens, permanent secretary at the Department of Culture Media and Sport, went twice to Wimbledon within five days.

Dozens of civil servants are listed as having had meals provided by firms, public sector organisations and charities.

Several attended ballet performances, rugby matches, dinner dances, foreign trips and BBC Proms concerts.

Beverley Shears, director of human resources at the Ministry of Justice, went to a "life training" event hosted by TV hypnotist Paul McKenna.

Around 200 mandarins declared some 1,800 items in 2007 - making an average of nine events each.

The most prolific entertainers included oil giants such as Shell and BP, financial and advisory firm KPMG, and banks such Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche. Newspapers and the BBC also featured heavily in the 90-page list.

Failed banks HBOS and Royal Bank of Scotland found the money to host key Whitehall figures, as the government prepared to bail them out with billions of pounds in public funds.

RBS took Gordon Brown's top foreign policy adviser, Sir Nigel Sheinwald - now ambassador to the US - to lunch last January. In February they dined Home Office permanent secretary David Normington, and in May stood lunch for Foreign Office mandarin Sir Peter Ricketts.

'Transparency'

HBOS invited the Treasury's director for international finance, Stephen Pickford, to a reception in October and then bought him dinner the following month.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "The decision to publish this list reflects the government's continued commitment to openness and transparency.

"All hospitality received is in line with guidelines set out in the Civil Service Code and Civil Service Management Code."

Asked about the statistics on civil servants' hospitality, the prime minister's spokesman said that officials, like journalists, needed to maintain their network of contacts outside their own departments.

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude welcome the publication.

"Openness and transparency over gifts and interests are vital to ensure a culture of probity and high standards in public life," he said.

"However, it speaks volumes that Gordon Brown is still stalling over publishing the latest register of ministers' interests following the return of Peter Mandelson."

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