Conservative MP apologises for breaking financial ethics rules on relationship with PPE company

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A Conservative MP and former health minister has apologised for breaking ministerial rules when he took paid work from a company that was trying to sell personal protective equipment (PPE) to the National Health Service, following an investigation by Insider.

George Freeman MP broke the ministerial code by failing to seek the advice of the UK’s anti-political corruption watchdog before accepting a job with Aerosol Shield, a company founded by a former UK government appointee whom Freeman had worked alongside when he was a minister.

The rules — supervised by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) — are designed to highlight potential conflicts of interest when ministers take paid work in addition to their government jobs.

Insider first reported that Freeman had taken the money but failed to properly declare it in January. 

Freeman apologized for what he said was a “genuine misunderstanding on my part from reading the Ministerial Code and ACOBA guidance.” He also offered his thanks for the guidance of Lord Eric Pickles, chair of ACOBA, insisting that his own former officials would testify that he always took “compliance with the Ministerial code of the utmost importance.”

As detailed by Insider’s previous reporting, ACOBA found Freeman had failed to consult ACOBA before taking up to £5,000 of paid work with Aerosol Shield, creating a business development plan for the firm. Freeman previously carried out unpaid work for the company, attempting to get approval for the company’s product for use in the NHS.

Freeman previously insisted he had done nothing wrong

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When initially confronted by ACOBA several weeks ago, Freeman demanded an apology, claimed there had been a “serious error,” and requested an appeal of the finding that he had breached the code, Insider reported on February 15.

Freeman told ACOBA: “I actively sought their advice. But the advice was not clear — which your officials later accepted and apologised to me for, saying they would be reviewing their guidance as a result.”

Freeman said that Pickles’s letter of December 24 had led to a “serious attack on my integrity in the media”, and that “it would have been courteous if someone had contacted me before it was published with such a serious inaccuracy.”

But Pickles said he could find no circumstances to justify issuing an apology, and revealed further investigations had been opened by ACOBA.

Apology neither offered nor justified

Pickles’s response on February 12, reported by Insider, was heavily critical of Freeman. Pickles stated bluntly that he was satisfied that “you were given clear and unambiguous advice that should your unpaid assistance to the Government result in being offered paid work, then advice would be required under the Government’s Business Appointment Rules (the Rules).”

Pickles went on to state his “disappointment” at Freeman’s claim to a local newspaper, the Eastern Daily Press, that ACOBA had issued an “apology” on the handling of his application, saying: “After close examination, I can find no evidence of an apology being made, nor with respect, can I find any circumstances to justify …read more

Source:: Businessinsider – Politics

      

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