Rules to stop civil servants taking jobs in the private sector from abusing their position are not being consistently applied, a new report has revealed.
The National Audit Office carried out an investigation into Business Appointment Rules, which apply to all civil servants leaving the service for employment in other sectors.
A survey of government departments found that not one rejected an application for a job in the private sector, while the cabinet office had not taken action to ensure departments are complying with the rules, which can see anti-lobbying restrictions applied to new positions as a condition of employment.
Labour said former chancellor George Osborne - now the editor of the Evening Standard - was a prime example of the “revolving door” between big business and government.
Osborne was appointed to his new role earlier this year and stepped down as Tatton MP at the general election.
Shadow cabinet office minister Jon Trickett said: “There are rules intended to stop this cosy club but today’s report shows that the system is completely toothless and there is a total lack of oversight.
“The National Audit Office’s findings aren’t surprising. The Tories hold the system in complete contempt. First, they’ve watered down the rules so that they don’t apply to former special advisers earning under about £95,000 – meaning most spinners can go straight into lobbying using privileged information.
“Then top ministers ignore the rules, like the former chancellor George Osborne has done twice since leaving office for his ‘think-tank’ and for editing the Evening Standard.
“The British public have realised money and power in Britain too often stays within a closed circle who rule to serve themselves. Labour intends to secure a country which works for the many, not the few and will introduce a rigorous procedure to stop this abuse.”
The National Audit Office says the Business Appointment Rules exist to mitigate risks including abuse of office, profiteering and undue influence.
All current and former civil servants must consider whether they need to make an application under the rules before accepting a new role in another sector. The rules are developed and owned by the cabinet office and approved by the Prime Minister.
While the cabinet office has the power to monitor how codes of conduct are being applied across government departments, it does not exercise this right on business appointments and relies on individual departments “enforcing compliance, transparency and public scrutiny to promote compliance with the rules”.
The NAO also found that no department was able to give assurances that former civil servants remained compliant with the rules for up to two years after they had left public service.
“The majority of departments considered the onus to be on former civil servants to comply with the rules, and any conditions placed on them,” it said.