Ex-ministers could be free to write books and columns without approval, Rishi Sunak’s deputy has suggested.
Boris Johnson, the former prime minister, was rebuked by the anti-corruption watchdog in June after he gave them only 30 minutes notice of his new role as a Daily Mail columnist.
The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba), charged with setting conditions on former ministers when they enter new jobs, later wrote to ministers calling for urgent reform to the rules governing post-ministerial work, including sanctions for breaches.
In a letter to Acoba published on Thursday, Oliver Dowden, the Deputy Prime Minister, said it would be “disproportionate” to take any further action towards Mr Johnson beyond acknowledging the breach.
He said the Cabinet Office had accepted the watchdog’s assessment that the “risk surrounding media appointments are limited” and that they were “typically subject to the conditions that former ministers are already required to abide by” following their exit from high office.
‘Importance of the rights to free speech’
Mr Dowden said the UK Government was “minded” to exempt books, journalism and media appearances from strict business appointment rules in the future.
In his letter to Acoba on Thursday, Mr Dowden said the reforms were likely to take a softer approach towards media work in order to support free speech.
He continued: “As part of these reforms, the Government is minded that media appearances, books or journalism should in due course be formally exempted from the business appointment rules (whilst still maintaining duty of confidentiality requirements).
“This recognises also the importance of the rights to free speech within the law. This ‘minded to’ approach is therefore guiding in the assessment of appropriate steps on this particular issue.”