Matt Hancock has been ruled to have broken government regulations by not consulting the parliamentary anti-corruption watchdog before he appeared on ‘I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!’
The body’s chairman made the ruling, with Lord Pickles – the Conservative chair of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) – telling Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden of the breach by letter.
His ruling, reported by the Daily Mail on Tuesday night (22.11.22), means disciplinary action could be decided against Mr Hancock by the Cabinet Office.
But the publication added Lord Pickles said he believed further action towards former health secretary Mr Hancock would be “disproportionate”.
Under official rules, Mr Hancock should have got clearance from Acoba for any new employment or appointments he takes on within two years of leaving office.
Lord Pickles told Mr Dowden he was writing to “bring to your attention a breach of the government’s Business Appointment Rules”.
He added: “Mr Hancock did not seek Acoba’s advice before signing up to two television series, ITV’s ‘I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!’ and Channel 4’s ‘SAS Who Dares Wins’.”
Mr Hancock claimed in a letter to Lord Pickles sent earlier this month he did not believe he needed to ask Acoba’s permission to appear on either show as the guidelines state “one-off media appearances such as these” do not count “as an appointment or employment”.
But Lord Pickles told Mr Hancock in a reply: “The rules are clear that an application is required where individuals plan a series of media activities and it is for Acoba to assess the associated risks.
“As such, failing to seek and await advice before these roles were announced or taken up in this case is a breach of the government’s rules and the requirements set out in the ministerial code.”
A spokesperson for Mr Hancock told the Daily Mail: “The Acoba website clearly states that it does not regard media appearances as an appointment or employment. The guidance on the website was followed in good faith.”
‘I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!’ continues tomorrow (23.11.22) at 9pm on ITV1 and ITV Hub, Virgin Media One and Virgin Media Player.