The government is to launch a new scheme for Ministers and Big Business leaders to “buddy up”, says an article in today’s Times. These arrangements giving business leaders direct and privileged access to Ministers is fraught with dangers, not least the taint of corrupt practices such as ex-Ministers being parachuted into jobs with their former ‘buddies’.
Ministers are there to represent to whole nation, not just business and certainly not just a select group of big businesses. I wonder what small businesses, which are a vital part of our economy and any future growth prospects, will think of their larger rivals being given this privilege? And what about other important bits of the “Big Society” – like trade unions, community organisations, voluntary leaders – don’t they deserve privileged access too? Or does Government only want to hear from Big Business?
There has also been something of a revolving door between Westminster, Whitehall and big business with far too many ex Ministers and Mandarins dropping straight into lucrative jobs soon after they exit the corridors of power. It raises serious issues about their decisions whilst in power – were they biased by promises of future rewards?
It would also ne interesting to know how this squares with the Ministerial Code of Conduct?
At the very least if Ministers are going to take on this “buddy” role we should have a rule that they agree not to take any paid role with their buddy companies for at least a decade.
And we should all remember one business leader who had a very direct ‘buddy’ relationship with Ministers, Mr Rupert Murdoch. and we all know how that ended.