Boris Johnson has been told by a Government-funded watchdog that his contract with the Daily Telegraph should be amended after he failed to declare his return to the newspaper after quitting as Foreign Secretary.
The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments said his contract should now include a clause stopping him from using privileged information learned while holding his position in the Government.
Acoba has told Johnson it is “unacceptable” that he did not consult it before signing a contract with the newspaper.
Johnson restarted his weekly column on 15 July this year, less than a week after he resigned from the cabinet on 9 July over Theresa May’s Chequers plan proposing a so-called “soft Brexit”.
The committe said he was in breach of ministerial code because former cabinet ministers are expected to wait a minimum of three months from their date of leaving office before taking up a business appointment.
In a letter to Johnson dated yesterday, Acoba said: “Failure to seek advice before the Telegraph made public you would be taking on this work and before signing a contract was a failure to comply with your duty to seek advice.”
According to the letter, Johnson’s contract stipulates he will write a weekly column for 46 weeks, be available for public appearances and podcasts, and write other articles as decided on an ad-hoc basis with the editor.
He signed the Telegraph contract on 12 July, just three days after his resignation, but did not make an application to Acoba about his appointment until 26 July.
The Ministerial Code states: “On leaving office, ministers will be prohibited from lobbying Government for two years.
“They must also seek advice from the independent Advisory Committee on Business Appointments about any appointments or employment they wish to take up within two years of leaving office.
“Former ministers must ensure that no new appointments are announced, or taken up, before the committee has been able to provide its advice.”
In its letter, Acoba told Johnson that the Government’s business appointment rules for former ministers say retrospective applications are not normally accepted.
It said: “The committee sees no reason why the minimum thee-month waiting period should not have been observed in this case and considers that your entering into this appointment within a few days of leaving office without seeking the advice of the committee was a breach of the rules.”
However, Acoba said it has received confirmation from Johnson that he will not “make use of any privileged information that [he] may have had access to as a minister and/or a member of cabinet”.
Johnson also told Acoba there was a clause in his contract preventing him from using third-party information he does not have consent to use, and that he would be willing to ask the Telegraph to add a specific clause “precluding the use of privileged information”.
The committee “anticipates that… [his] contract will indeed be amended”.
Johnson has caused controversy this week after saying Muslim women wearing burkas looked like “letter boxes” and “bank robbers” in his Telegraph column on Monday, his fourth since returning to the newspaper.
Senior Tory MPs, including Prime Minister Theresa May and Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis, have called on Johnson to apologise.
It was announced today that he is to face a Conservative Party panel investigation over complaints that his comments breached the party’s code of conduct.
He began his career as a journalist at the Times and was Brussels correspondent for the Telegraph before entering politics.
The Telegraph has yet to respond to a request for comment.
Picture: Reuters/Simon Dawson