Former Aberconwy MP found to have breached the ministerial code

Former Aberconwy MP Guto Bebb. Picture: The Conservatives

A former Welsh Tory MP has been found to have breached the ministerial code over his first job since quitting the Commons.

Guto Bebb was announced as the new managing director of the Farmers Union of Wales Insurance Scheme in March after standing down as the MP for Aberconwy.

As a former minister, Bebb’s new role should have been signed-off by the government’s anti-corruption watchdog, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACoBA).

The ministerial code states that former ministers must seek advice from the committee about any role they want to take up within two years of leaving office.

“Former Ministers must ensure that no new appointments are announced, or taken up, before the Committee has been able to provide its advice,” the document adds.

But Bebb, who quit as a junior defence minister in July 2018 over Brexit, failed to inform ACoBA of his appointment until three days after it been publicly announced via a press release.

Bebb, who was also a Wales Office minister under Theresa May, told the committee this was needed to satisfy Financial Conduct Authority requirements on notification of senior management changes.

 

‘Unacceptable’

The committee recognised the risks associate with Bebb’s new role were low given that he had not dealt with insurance issues or met with the FUW Insurance Scheme during his time as a minister, which ended 21 months ago.

But, in a stinging response, ACoBA chair Lord Pickles wrote that the committee “finds it unacceptable that you made your application retrospectively, in a clear breach of the ministerial code.”

“The press release made no mention of the appointment being subject to the committee’s advice,” he added.

“In any event, it remains that it was in breach of the requirement in the ministerial code that new appointments must not be announced before the committee has been able to provide its advice.

“To fulfil the remit given to it by the government, the committee needs to be able to consider the application fully and freely before offering its advice.

“It is impossible to do this in a way that will command public confidence if an appointment has already been announced and/or taken up.”

Bebb started his new role in April. In the press release announcing his appointment, the ex-MP was quoted as saying: “It’s good to be back amidst the business hubbub of Wales. This is a new exciting challenge which I look forward to embracing enthusiastically.”

After three terms as an MP since 2010, Bebb announced he would stand down last July after being stripped of the Conservative whip for rebelling against Brexit legislation.

At the time he accused his former party of “appealing to the type of nationalism that has seen UKIP grow in the past” and said Boris Johnson would make a “disastrous” prime minister.

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