David Cameron's former comms chief given slap on wrist over new agency

Former Downing Street director of strategic comms Ameet Gill has been told off by the Government watchdog overseeing business appointments of former civil servants for announcing the launch of his new agency before it could be approved.

Gill (l) with Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague in 2011 (Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

On 12 September, PRWeek revealed that Gill, who worked with Cameron for 10 years in total, had joined forces with former Vote Leave comms chief Paul Stephenson to launch Hanbury Strategy. Gill, who received an OBE for public service in 2015, said that the pair would provide a "unique perspective on Brexit" to clients of the East London.

As a former civil servant, Gill's new role should have been approved by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) prior to it being announced.

In a letter to civil service CEO John Manzoni, ACOBA expressed its concerns about this procedure not having followed.

As such, Gill's new role has neither been approved nor turned down - although this does not create any material barrier to Hanbury's operation, as ACOBA has no powers of enforcement.

"I would like to register the Committee’s concern that Mr Gill’s consultancy and the fact that it had already secured clients was announced before the Committee had had the opportunity to offer its advice. The business appointment rules for former Crown servants specify that retrospective applications will not normally be accepted," says the letter, which was sent on 20 September and made public today (12 October).

"To fulfil the remit given to it by Government the Committee needs to be able to consider an application fully and freely before offering its advice. It is impossible to do this in a way that will command public confidence if an appointment has already been announced and/or taken up," it goes on to say.

The letter said that Gill would, as per normal practice, have to gain approval for every new client won in the next two years, and should be aware of the "normal restrictions... prohibiting lobbying and the misuse of privileged information obtained while in public office". There is no suggestion Gill has breached these.

In a statement, the firm said: "Ameet has always been clear that he will comply with all the standards set out by the Cabinet Office, and will continue to do so."

In July, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee announced an inquiry into ACOBA and parallel body the Independent Adviser on Ministers' Interests.

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