James O'Shaughnessy, Number 10 Staffer Turned Lobbyist, Is Defended By Cameron Staff
Downing Street insisted today that David Cameron's former director of policy complied with rules on business appointments when he took on work for a lobbying company.
James O'Shaughnessy left No 10 last October after four years as a member of Mr Cameron's inner circle. Lobbying firm Portland announced yesterday that he had been appointed its chief policy adviser.
The appointment sparked questions over rules designed to stop former officials trading on information gained while they are inside government and access to ministers.
Like other former officials, Mr O'Shaughnessy is required to inform the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments of any jobs he plans to accept within two years of leaving office.
On its website, Acoba states that it cleared him to work for an independent strategy and research consultancy advising charitable and corporate organisations, with certain conditions limiting the kind of work he can carry out.
The former special adviser should wait three months before accepting any commissions with clients in the education sector and should seek permission for any such commissions accepted in the following nine months, said Acoba.
Outside the education sector, he "should not undertake any work which involves providing advice on the terms of any bid or contract relating directly to the work of the Prime Minister's Office or the Department for Education".
And for two years after quitting Number 10 he should not "become personally involved in lobbying government on behalf of his clients".
While in opposition, Mr Cameron warned that lobbying was "the next big scandal waiting to happen" and he has promised new laws to regulate the industry. The Prime Minister's official spokesman today said his proposals would be unveiled "very soon".
The former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life Sir Alistair Graham described Mr O'Shaughnessy's decision to take up a role with Portland as "a serious error of judgment", telling The Independent: "He has been working at the heart of government and it would be difficult for the committee to know what conditions to attach to his future employment if it did not know he was going to work for a lobbying firm."
But the Cabinet Office today said that Mr O'Shaughnessy had not breached the rules, because he was not directly employed by Portland. Instead, the lobbying firm had offered work to his independent consultancy, which he had accepted.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "James O'Shaughnessy followed the rules. He submitted an application to the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments to set up an independent consultancy.
"The committee advised - and James accepted the advice - that any commission relating to education should be subject to a three-month waiting period and for the following nine months he should seek permission for any commissions he wished to accept with clients in the education sector.
"All work through the consultancy would be subject to a two-year lobbying ban. Mr O'Shaughnessy's consultancy's acceptance of this commission by Portland was in line with the advice he received from the committee."
And the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "James O'Shaughnessy has followed the rules and the consultancy that he is undertaking is in line with the advice that he received from the committee."
A spokesman for Portland said: "We are delighted that James will be providing advice to our company and our clients.
"We have contracted with James through his independent consultancy and under the conditions set out in the original Acoba advice, as the Cabinet Office has confirmed.
"Of course he, like all people working for Portland who have left government, will fully comply with the conditions placed on him."