Former Health Minister Stephen Brine has claimed to have consulted Parliament’s watchdog before agreeing to a £ 200 an hour job at a pharmaceutical company. In fact, ACOBA refused to discuss the work with him because he had already started it.
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Boris Johnson faces a new lobbying scandal after a former health minister apparently broke second job rules and lied about a £ 200 an hour role with a pharmaceutical company.
The company was then awarded a Covid-19 testing contract worth £ 100,000.
Winchester MP Stephen Brine started raising £ 1,600 a month by giving ‘strategic advice’ to Sigma Pharmaceuticals just months after stepping down as Minister of Public Health in March 2019.
Mr Brine has repeatedly stated in the public register of MPs interests that he has been given the green light to take over as the watchdog of the revolving doors of Parliament.
But the Sunday Mirror can reveal he broke the ministerial code by only consulting them after he brazenly started working for the multi-million pound company.
Mr Johnson still faces internal party bickering and plunging poll numbers over his botched response to the Owen Paterson lobbying scandal.
Mr Brine quietly quit his job at Sigma on November 22, after the prime minister vowed to bar MPs “from exploiting their positions” with consultant jobs.
Former ministers must consult with the employment watchdog, the Business Appointments Advisory Body (ACOBA) before accepting a job within two years of leaving government.
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But an ACOBA spokesperson told the Sunday Mirror the body refused to give Mr Brine advice on the job because he only approached them after he started working for Sigma.
Labor deputy chief Angela Rayner wrote today to ACOBA President Lord Pickles asking him to clarify the ‘troubling’ situation.
She told the Sunday Mirror: “It takes courage to seemingly use the coverage of the corporate appointment process when there has been no decision or approval for lobbying work. “
She added: ‘Steve Brine made fun of the system while earning over £ 200 an hour advising a pharmaceutical company.
“That is why we need the clarity of a ban on second jobs for MPs, so that this cannot go on any longer.”
Mr Brine told the Sunday Mirror: “I will review all of this with the House authorities at the earliest opportunity and make sure everything is in order.
“I appreciate your bringing it to my attention.”
Mr Brine has previously been asked about a meeting he attended in February between Sigma and then Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi.
Two months later, the company won a £ 100,000 government contract to provide Covid-19 tests to pharmacies.
But the company and Mr Brine deny acting as a lobbyist and insist he played no role in the deal.
Asked about the meeting last month, Bharat Shah, the founder of Sigma, also said that Brine was an advisor and not a lobbyist.
He said Mr. Brine “was not involved or had no knowledge” of the lateral flow test contract.
There is no suggestion of wrongdoing on Sigma’s part.
The Ministerial Code states: “Former ministers must ensure that no new appointments are announced, or taken, before the Committee has been able to give its opinion.
And the ACOBA guidelines for former ministers state: “A retrospective application is an application when an appointment or employment has been taken or advertised before the Committee has given its full and final opinion.
“It’s a violation of government rules. “