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The Lobbying Act is as leaky as a sieve – this is how to stop Whitehall ‘sleaze’


suspect that the public will be underwhelmed by the report that parliament and government have initiated no fewer than six inquiries into what appears to the outsider to be rampant corruption in Whitehall.

Part of the problem is one of language. You don’t hear the word “corruption’” Instead, there is something called “sleaze’” But sleaze covers a multitude of sins. These include: offering and taking bribes for personal or party purposes (clearly illegal but with murky arrears like peerages for party donations); fraud (illegal but difficult to prove); fiddling expenses (technically theft but with a lot of grey areas); facilitating access to decision-makers through “contacts” (legal but controversial, as with David Cameron); various forms of legal but unseemly behaviour (bullying, leaking confidential information, lying other than on oath); sex scandals (no longer very scandalous unless favours are involved).

In an attempt to strengthen standards, those of us who have been in senior positions in public life are expected to subscribe to the Nolan Principles. But these are so vague they are vacuous. They include “selflessness”, “integrity”, “objectivity” and “leadership”.  I suspect that we all say “yes” when asked to subscribe to these platitudes. The public doesn’t expect to be ruled by saints – but it does want to be protected from crooks. And, at the moment, there seem to be too many crooks in and around the government.

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