Paris finance event sparks new questions over Osborne conflicts

(c) Sky News 2017: <a href="http://news.sky.com/story/paris-finance-event-sparks-new-questions-over-osborne-conflicts-10818666">Paris finance event sparks new questions over Osborne conflicts </a>
 

George Osborne is being paid to speak at a finance event in Paris on his second day as the London Evening Standard's new editor, raising fresh questions about how the former Chancellor plans to manage conflicts arising from his move into journalism.

Sky News can reveal that Mr Osborne, who has said he intends to remain as MP for Tatton despite amassing a lucrative portfolio of private sector jobs, has agreed to attend the Hedge Fund Intelligence European Summit at a luxury hotel in the French capital on May 3.

Sources said that Evening Standard staff had been informed that Mr Osborne was likely to take up his role as its editor on May 2, and that he was at the newspaper's offices in Kensington this week for a "dummy run" to help him learn the ropes.

His decision to press ahead with a speaking engagement in Paris - for which he is expected to be paid tens of thousands of pounds - in his first week at the Evening Standard is likely to spark renewed calls for him to relinquish his parliamentary seat.

Insiders familiar with the hedge fund conference's agenda said that Mr Osborne's speaking slot - originally scheduled for 11.45am local time - had been pushed back to the late afternoon, to allow him to travel to Paris after spending the morning at the Evening Standard's offices.

When his shock appointment as editor was announced two weeks ago, the publisher's statement said the Evening Standard's schedule would "enable Mr Osborne to edit the paper and continue to fulfil his other commitments, including as an MP; giving him the time to vote and contribute in Parliament in the afternoon after the paper has gone to print, and be in his constituency".

Parliament will be sitting on May 3, but Mr Osborne's private sector commitments in London and Paris mean he will be unable to attend.

Other speakers at the Paris conference include Luke Ellis, chief executive of the London-listed Man Group (LSE: EMG.L - news) , and Anthony Clake, the Marshall Wace executive who funded a plan to split one of the runways at Heathrow Airport in order to facilitate its expansion.

According to the conference agenda, subjects to be debated will include Brexit, the Trump presidency and the future of the hedge fund industry.

Tickets for the event cost up to €7400 (£6345).

So far, Mr Osborne's Tatton constituents appear to have been broadly supportive of his move into journalism, although it has raised serious questions about potential conflicts of interest.

London remains one of the world's leading hedge fund centres, for example, and it is unclear how Mr Osborne would satisfy Evening Standard colleagues and readers of his ability to be objective about the industry while being paid to speak to an audience of its top executives.

Mr Osborne is also due to earn £650,000-a-year as a senior adviser to the Blackrock Investment Institute, while he has a paid role at the Washington Speakers Bureau.

He is not paid for his work as chairman of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, a think-tank set up to continue the work he started at the Treasury on promoting economic growth in the north of England.

A spokeswoman for ESI Media, the Evening Standard's owner, declined to comment on Thursday.

Mr Osborne's Commons office did not respond to enquiries about his Evening Standard start date or his fee for speaking at the Paris conference.

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