Former UK PM Theresa May earned £1.86 million in her 2 years since leaving Downing Street, figures show

Letters begin to fall off the backdrop, “BUILDING A COUNTRY THAT WORKS OR EVERYON” as British Prime Minister Theresa May delivers her keynote speech to delegates and party members on the last day of the Conservative Party Conference at Manchester Central on October 4, 2017 in Manchester, England.
Theresa May delivers her keynote speech at the 2017 Conservative Party conference as letters begin to fall off the backdrop.

  • Former UK PM Theresa May has earned £1,861,776 for speeches since leaving Downing Street.
  • The income is from 27 speeches since December 2019, paid at an average of £8,130 per hour.
  • Saturday marks two years since May left office, leaving her free to begin lobbying the government.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Former British Prime Minister Theresa May earned £1,861,776 for speeches since leaving Downing Street in July 2019, research by Insider found.

Since joined the Washington Speakers Bureau in December 2019, for which she received a £190,000 signing bonus, and since then has registered 27 engagements at an average of £77,574 per speech.

As an MP, May is required to declare earnings from outside parliament, as well as the hours for each piece of work.

May has declared 229 hours of work for the preparation, delivery, and travel around the speeches, creating an average hourly rate of £8,130.03.

Among May’s audiences have been JP Morgan Chase, which paid £160,370 for two talks in April 2020; Brown University and Trinity University, Texas, which both paid £115,000 for speeches in March 2020; and the French asset management company Amundi, which paid £39,900 for an address in January 2021.

Travel restrictions meant at least 13 of May’s speeches since September 2020 were held virtually. These virtual speeches brought in an average of £41,749. In-person speeches brought in an average of £112,904.

May’s earnings are not paid to her directly, but to the Office of Theresa May.

That money is used to “pay employees, maintain my ongoing involvement in public life and support my charitable work”, according to her entry on Parliament’s register of members’ interests.

She also says she takes an £85,000 salary from the company for 24 hours a month.

May stepped down as Prime Minister on 24 July 2019 after failing to secure backing for her deal to remove the UK from the European Union. Boris Johnson won the Conservative leadership contest to succeed her.

This Saturday, 24 July, will mark two years since May left office. It is also the point at which Westminster’s lobbying rules will no longer apply to many of the ministers who served under her.

Ex-ministers who lost their jobs when Boris Johnson took over will be free to lobby the government and take up jobs without consulting the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, the lobbying watchdog.

After Philip Hammond, who served as May’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, was given particularly stringent lobbying restrictions for two years from the point he left the government, he told the Daily Mail: “I found this quite a strange decision to understand. I haven’t sought to challenge it because the Acoba control period for me ends on July 24.”

Insider asked May’s office to comment on her speaking income but did not receive a response by time of publication.

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Chair of Westminster’s lobbying watchdog under investigation for alleged breach of transparency rules

Lord Eric Pickles
Lord Eric Pickles, the chair of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments.

  • The chair of Westminster’s lobbying watchdog is under investigation for alleged breaches of transparency rules.
  • Eric Pickles, a Tory peer, declared he is the director of Oakworth Services, a consultancy firm.
  • House of Lords rules require peers to describe the company’s business, which Pickles did not.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The chairman of Westminster’s lobbying watchdog is under investigation over an allegation he breached transparency rules when disclosing ties to a consultancy firm he runs.

Eric Pickles, a member of the House of Lords and a former Tory minister, is the chair of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA).

ACOBA is responsible for applying rules that forbid former ministers, senior civil servants and senior special advisers from lobbying after they leave the government.

Pickles, along with his wife, is a director of Oakworth Services Ltd. The firm’s entry on Companies House describes Pickles’s occupation as a “Consultant”.

Pickles’s entry on the House of Lords register of interests says only that Oakworth Services Ltd is a “consultancy”, providing no further details on its work, openDemocracy reported on Thursday.

On Friday, the House of Lords Commissioners for Standards announced that Pickles’s registration of an interest was the subject of an inquiry.

The rules of the House of Lords require peers to “give a broad indication of the company’s business, where this is not self-evident from its name”.

Margaret Hodge, the Labour MP and former chair of the influential Public Accounts Committee told openDemocracy: “There is a problematic lack of transparency in the Lords”.

Pickles told Insider that the company had not received any income since he became chair of ACOBA.

He also said that he had given up all paid outside interests since becoming chair and that all previous clients were declared separately.

Pickles, along with the other peer on ACOBA, also gives notably less forthcoming disclosures as part of his work on the committee.

In ACOBA’s register of interests, both Pickles and Labour peer Larry Whitty, refer to their entries on the House of Lords register of interests, which deal only with their personal affairs.

Meanwhile the seven other members of ACOBA also disclose the interests of close family members, such as the jobs of their spouses and children, as well as their past paid work.

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Lobbying scandal: Civil servants must start declaring conflicts of interests, says anti-sleaze watchdog

david cameron lex greensill 2
  • A register of interests for senior civil servants and special advisers in the UK should be published, a top civil servant has been told.
  • Lord Eric Pickles, chair of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, says the government has to introduce further transparency measures.
  • The call follows the scandal involving David Cameron, senior civil servantsm and the collapsed firm Greensill Capital.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Senior civil servants and special advisers should start publishing any external work they undertake in a public register of interests, in order to prevent any repeat of the lobbying scandal involving David Cameron and senior civil servants, the chair of the watchdog that oversees post-governmental jobs for ministers and senior civil servants has said.

Lord Eric Pickles, the chair of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, has written to Alex Chisholm, the Permanent Secretary of the Cabinet Office urging him to make the changes following revelations about the role of senior civil servants in the lobbying scandal involving the collapsed firm Greensill Capital.

The scandal has led to a series of reviews of the rules governing outside interests and post-governmental appointments for those working in Whitehall.

“The critical question”, Pickles writes, “is whether the government will introduce the transparency necessary to provide assurance around this process”.

He says there should be the “publication of an appropriate register of interests for senior civil servants, and special advisers in line with the approach taken for departmental board members”.

Departmental boards are chaired by the Secretary of State, and include the department’s ministers, permanent secretary and senior civil servants in that department, as well as non-executive members. Non-executive members provide advice to departments on strategy – not policy – and are frequently recruited from the commercial sector, and are paid government appointees.

At the moment, this approach requires departmental board members to declare “any private financial or non-financial interests of your own, or of close family members, which may, or may be perceived to, conflict with your public duties”.

But the approach taken for departmental board members is not consistent across Whitehall. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s 2019-2020 accounts states “BEIS has an established procedure for considering, approving and recording conflicts of interest […] In 2019-20 there was only one conflict of interests registered during the meeting and it was addressed accordingly.”

It does not contain a register of interests for the board members.

The Cabinet Office, meanwhile, does publish on an annual basis a register of its board members’ interests.

The possibility remains in Pickles’s suggestion that just as, thanks to unclear definitions, senior civil servants can sidestep scrutiny from ACOBA – as reported by Insider this week – so too might they avoid having their entries on a register of interests published.

‘The lack of transparency… is alarming’

david cameron lex greensill

Pickles’ letter calls for stronger action than previously suggested by the UK’s top civil servant.

Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary, told MPs on the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee in April that “to ensure that our processes are robust and transparent”, he would be introducing reforms requiring senior civil servants to “declare any relevant interests to their permanent secretary on at least an annual basis.

“Departments should also ensure that as part of or alongside their Annual Report and Accounts they publish a register of relevant interests for all members of the Departmental Board, including senior civil servants,” he added.

Pickles also calls for “a clear, published, policy demonstrating how the integrity of decision making in office and any access to sensitive information (whether commercial/regulatory or policy related) in government service is protected in such cases”.

But campaigners say Pickles is not going far enough. Susan Hawley, executive director at Spotlight on Corruption, told Insider: “The lack of transparency in how conflicts of interest are managed whether it be those of civil servants or politicians is alarming. There should be a centrally managed public database with registers of conflicts of interest for all those in senior positions in government.

“But it can never be enough just to declare a conflict of interest. Conflicts need to be proactively managed and there need to be clear and robust sanctions for those that breach conflict of interest rules.”

The latest edition of the register of ministers’ interests is due for publication at the end of the month by the independent adviser on ministers’ interests, Lord Geidt.

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Boris Johnson’s former Communications Director skipped scrutiny from regulator before taking job with The Sun

james slack boris johnson
Boris Johnson’s former Director of Communications James Slack.

  • EXCLUSIVE: Boris Johnson’s former Director of Communications, James Slack, will avoid scrutiny of his post-government jobs.
  • The Cabinet Office say Slack, soon to become deputy editor at The Sun, does not need to consult the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments.
  • A former senior government official told Insider: “There is a total disregard for [the regulators] from the top down in this administration.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Boris Johnson’s former Director of Communications, James Slack, managed to avoid scrutiny from the official watchdog overseeing the post-government appointments of civil servants, before taking a job with The Sun, Insider can reveal.

In a move that one former senior government official described to Insider as a “humiliation” to the regulator, officials judged that Slack was not required to consult the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments [ACOBA], despite his predecessors having done so.

Slack was made Director of Communications from the beginning of 2021 following nearly four years as the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesperson.

Slack, who held both positions as a civil servant, not a political special adviser, had formerly been a journalist at the Daily Mail.

In March 2021, it was announced Slack had been appointed deputy editor-in-chief at The Sun, joining the paper in the “coming months”.

However, Insider has learned that despite four predecessors in the role having to consult ACOBA following their departure from Number 10, it was judged that there was no such requirement on Slack.

Under the Business Appointment Rules, only the two most senior grades of civil servants and their special adviser equivalents must seek advice from ACOBA before taking up a new role after leaving Crown service.

Responding to the Cabinet Office’s claim that Slack was not in the two most senior grades, a former senior government official told Insider: “It’s clear there is a total disregard for ACOBA from the top down in this current administration. If ACOBA can be ignored without penalty in this manner, it might as well be scrapped. Of course, former Directors of Communication at No 10 should be held accountable as to what they do when they leave office and how they use their excellent contacts.

“Let’s not pretend this is transparency when clearly it’s anything but. Mr Pickles [the chair of ACOBA] should seriously consider how much longer he can swallow the humiliation.”

A second former senior government official said: “This seems very odd. James was always careful to keep his status as a civil servant, and it seems he has also been careful to stay out of ACOBA’s remit.”

Steve Goodrich, head of research and investigations at Transparency International UK, told Insider: “When senior officials move from public office to private employment it can give rise to conflicts of interest that require careful management, especially when they go to work for the media.

“Whilst in theory there are strict rules to oversee this revolving door, in practice there appears to be sporadic compliance and no credible deterrent to ensure they are followed.

“There needs to be a complete overhaul of government’s post-employment controls to better protect against potential impropriety and provide clarity over what is and is not acceptable after someone leaves public office.”

An organogram, published by the Cabinet Office in January 2021, concerning the structure of civil servants working in Downing Street in October 2020, shows Slack was paid £140,000 to £144,999 in his role as the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson, at senior civil service grade 2.

Lee Cain, the then Director of Communications, was paid the same salary, according to the annual report on special advisers’ pay. Insider understands that Cain is required to consult ACOBA for any appointments he is taking up since leaving the Government.

A job advert for the position of the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesperson, created after Slack’s promotion, likewise describes that role as being senior civil service grade 2 and reporting to Slack as the Director of Communications.

Insider contacted Slack asking for comment but did not receive a response.

Asked to comment, a government spokesperson said: “All the correct procedures have been followed.”

A government source told Insider that Slack had the standard conditions of not being allowed to use privileged information or to engage in lobbying for two years after office, applied to him. Applications by former civil servants that do not require seeking advice from ACOBA are handled entirely within the department of the former civil servant, in this case, the Cabinet Office.

Concerns over Slack’s activities in the period between his new role being announced and him taking it up were revealed by the Daily Mirror, who reported that Slack had continued to attend meetings with the Prime Minister a week after the announcement.

The rules on taking gardening leave after resigning from senior posts in Downing Street were unclear, the Mirror reported.

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