Oleg BurunovAll materialsWrite to the authorThe row comes after the UK government faced backlash following a lobbying scandal with Tory lawmaker Owen Paterson. Last week, the government abandoned plans to end the suspension of Paterson, who lobbied on behalf of companies that had paid him more than £500,000 ($682,882).Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith is under fire over heading a government taskforce that recommended new rules benefiting the hand sanitiser firm Byotrol, of which he is a staff member.The 67-year-old senior MP receives £25,000 ($33,768) a year as an adviser to Byotrol “in return for approximately 12 hours per month”. The Conservative MP for Chingford and Woodford Green served as a Byotrol director from June 2009 to May 2010.
John Major Rips BoJo’s ‘Politically Corrupt’ Gov’t Over ‘Shameful’ Handling of Paterson ‘Sleaze’ Row6 November, 13:50 GMTOn Tuesday, Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to explain “why he thinks it is justified for one of his MPs to be paid by a company that stands to benefit from a recommendation of a taskforce chaired by that same MP”.“This is exactly the kind of brazen conflict of interest that proves that the Conservatives think it is one rule for them and another for the rest of us. Did this MP declare an interest when these matters were discussed and reported on by the taskforce? Why is the prime minister failing to act over these glaring conflicts of interest?” Rayner asserted.She was echoed by Steve Goodrich, head of research and investigations at Transparency International UK, who argued that “the informality of a government taskforce might seem like an agile way to develop new policy but without basic governance arrangements it provides an open door to vested interests”.According to him, “if those proposing a major reform [could] benefit from it financially, this should at least be a matter of public record and probably should be subject to independent review”.The comments came after Smith’s Task Force on Innovation, Growth, and Regulatory Reform (TIGRR) recommended in a report that Byotrol’s alcohol-free hand sanitiser be approved for use in the UK without referring to the MP’s relationship with the company.The TIGRR called for an “urgent review on guidance on hand sanitisers so that tested, effective non-alcohol based sanitisers can be used” in Britain.Byotrol, in turn, said in August that its revenue had almost doubled in the wake of “exceptional demand” for its sanitising technologies due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The company reported a revenue of £11.2 million ($15.1 million) in 2020, up from £6 million ($8 million) the previous year.
Labour’s anger against Smith comes as some other Tory MPs, including Steve Brine, continue to moonlight in the health sector. A former junior health minister, Brine also works at Remedium Partners, a recruitment agency for the NHS, and the UK-based Sigma Pharmaceuticals. The lawmaker earlier said that he was “a strategic adviser to both [firms], not a lobbyist”, amid reports that he receives £1,666 ($2,249) a month at Sigma.
The developments unfold amid the scandal surrounding embattled Conservative lawmaker Owen Paterson, who earlier faced a 30-day House of Commons ban over an “egregious case of paid advocacy”.The MP was accused of “repeatedly” breaking the Commons lobbying rules over his paid consultancy work on behalf of the two companies that paid him earned more than £100,000 ($135,000).
As Labour Rule Out Joint ‘Anti-Sleaze’ Candidate, Who Will Tory Pick For Owen Paterson’s Safe Seat?5 November, 14:32 GMTWhile Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathyrn Stone recommended the suspension of Paterson in a report approved by a group of cross-party MPs on the Standards Committee, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government tried to grant Paterson a reprieve from reprisal by turning the spotlight onto the standards process itself.
Harsh criticism from opposition MPs and some Tories, however, prompted the government to finally reverse its decision on Paterson’s suspension, which was followed by the lawmaker’s announcement that he is stepping down to leave “the cruel world of politics”.
UK media cited unnamed senior Tory sources as saying that the situation raises serious questions over Johnson’s about-face judgment and leaves the entire Conservative Party tarnished by “sleaze”.
Labour Party leader Keir Starmer was quick to accuse Johnson of “corroded trust” in MPs, arguing that by making a U-turn on Paterson, BoJo had given the “green light to corruption”.