Boris Johnson accused of breaching ex-minister job rules over newspaper column

Boris Johnson failed to seek approval to restart his £250,000 newspaper column after quitting as foreign secretary. Picture by Victoria Jones, Press Association
David Wilcock, Press Association

Boris Johnson appears to have broken rules governing jobs for ex-ministers by not seeking approval to restart his £250,000 newspaper column after quitting as foreign secretary.

The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) said it had not been contacted by Mr Johnson after he stepped down over the prime minister's Brexit plan.

The Ministerial Code states that ex-ministers must refer any new jobs to Acoba before accepting them, but Mr Johnson returned to the Daily Telegraph on Monday, a week after sensationally quitting government.

In his first column for the paper since he was appointed foreign secretary in July 2016, he appealed for people to take a more positive view of Britain's prospects outside the EU and said he would resist "for now" the temptation "to bang on about Brexit".

A spokeswoman for Acoba said: "We did not receive an application. Ministers are written to when they leave office to remind them of their responsibility to make an application to us."

Acoba's website states: "Former ministers are expected to refrain from drawing on any privileged information which was available to them when a minister.

"They will normally be asked to observe a two-year ban on lobbying government on behalf of their new employer or clients.

"Former cabinet ministers will normally be subject to a three-month waiting period from their last day in office before taking up any outside employment."

The lobbying ban was applied to former chancellor George Osborne after he took over as editor of the Evening Standard in May 2017.

But Acoba has no power to take any further action and has been branded toothless by MPs.

The Ministerial Code of Conduct is a matter for the Cabinet Office.

Mr Johnson ended his contract to write a weekly article for the Daily Telegraph following his appointment to the Cabinet in 2016.

Documents released earlier that year showed that over four years, he was paid £987,097 for his column - while book royalties brought in a further £469,385.

Layla Moran, a Lib Dem MP and supporter of pro-EU group Best for Britain, said: "Boris is playing a stupid game. One minute he's flouting his position as secretary of state, the next minute he's feathering his nest at the first opportunity.

"No wonder Trump likes him and seems him as a kindred spirit. He isn't fit to be an MP.

"The worst Boris faces for this disgraceful behaviour is just a slap on the wrist. That is disgraceful. Boris has broken the rules yet again, for once he should pay the price for his actions.

"If the watchdog doesn't bark, is it time to put it down?"

A spokesman for Mr Johnson declined to comment.

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