David Cameron handed lobbying ban over role with US genetics firm

6 March 2018, 12:16

David Cameron has been handed "an extended lobbying ban" barring him from approaching government ministers or officials in his new role with an American genetics firm.

The former prime minister was given the order by the watchdog overseeing appointments for ex-ministers over his paid position with Illumina Inc.

Mr Cameron was told by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) that he should not contact ministers or officials to discuss issues relating to genomics unless invited to do so by the Government.

The ban is in place for two years from Mr Cameron's last day in ministerial office - the day he left 10 Downing Street on 13 July 2016.

The former Conservative Party leader announced his work with California-based Illumina last month.

In an article in The Times newspaper, Mr Cameron hailed the firm's "incredible" work while also describing the impact of his late son Ivan's diagnosis with a rare neurological disorder.

He said: "We were bowled over by the heroic attempts of doctors and nurses to treat and care for Ivan, but we were also reminded of how little we know about conditions such as epilepsy and some of its rare syndromes."

While in office, Mr Cameron set up Genomics England in 2013 to deliver the 100,000 Genomes Project, which aims to sequence 100,000 whole genomes from NHS patients with rare diseases and their families, as well as patients with common cancers.

Government-linked Genomics England has since entered into a £77m partnership with Illumina.

In a response to Mr Cameron's request for advice on his position with Illumina, ACOBA said neither the Cabinet Office or Department for Health have any concerns about the "propriety of this appointment".

ACOBA also noted how the Department of Health found no evidence Mr Cameron had any involvement in the award of the Government contract to Illumina or held any direct meetings with the firm while in office.

Mr Cameron assured the body that his role, which takes two to three days of his time per month, would not see him take part in contract negotiations between the firm and Genomics England. He also said he would not lobby ministers on the company's behalf.

However, explaining their reasons for his lobbying ban, ACOBA judged Mr Cameron's "status and influence" as a former prime minister meant it would "not be appropriate" for him to instigate engagement with ministers and government officials.

Mr Cameron has also been told he should not drawn on "any privileged information" available to him while in ministerial office, or advise any company on a bid for a government contract for the same two-year period since he left 10 Downing Street.

Prior to becoming prime minister, Mr Cameron described lobbying as the "next big scandal waiting to happen" and set up a new register for lobbyists while in government.

A number of Mr Cameron's former aides, who worked with him in Downing Street, have gone on to work in the lobbying industry.

The Illumina role is the only position for which Mr Cameron is explicitly banned from contacting ministers or officials unless invited to do so.

Since quitting as prime minister, Mr Cameron has also taken up other paid and unpaid roles with the UK-China Fund, the ONE campaign, First Data Corporation, the Council on Foreign Relations, the LSE-Oxford Commission on Growth in Fragile States, Alzheimer's Research UK, and the National Citizen Service.

He has also registered with the Washington Speakers Bureau to give keynote speeches around the world.