Matt Hancock breached the government’s business appointment rules by not consulting the watchdog before appearing on I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!, the chair of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) has said.
In a letter to the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, Oliver Dowden, Eric Pickles wrote: “I am writing to you in my capacity as chair of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments to bring to your attention a breach of the government’s business appointment rules.
“Mr Hancock did not seek Acoba’s advice before signing up to two television series, ITV’s I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! and Channel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins.”
However, it was recommended that no further action should be taken.
Lord Pickles added: “It is a matter for you to decide what appropriate action to take.
“However, given the transparent nature of Mr Hancock’s role which is limited to appearing on [these] shows (not dealing with the commercial aspect of Channel 4 or ITV business) I believe it would be disproportionate to take any further action in the case.”
But Lord Pickles dismissed the former health secretary’s claims that his failure to consult Acoba before appearing on I’m a Celebrity … did not breach government rules.
“The rules are clear that an application is required where individuals plan a series of media activities and it is for Acoba to assess the associated risks,” he wrote in the letter.
“As such, failing to seek and await advice before these roles were announced or taken up in this case is a breach of the government’s rules and the requirements set out in the ministerial code.”
Hancock lost the Tory whip after it was announced he would be appearing on I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!
Prior to joining the ITV show, Hancock insisted taking part would mean he reached a broader audience of people, adding that politicians should “go where the people are”.
He also said he would use his time on the show to raise awareness of dyslexia.
However, his decision to join the three-week contest, which is in its final week, was met with criticism from the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, who said he was “disappointed” he had taken part.
Some Tory MPs were more scathing, with Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, describing Hancock as an “absolute prat”.
Hancock is still being paid as an independent MP and is rumoured to have been paid £400,000 to appear on the show.
A spokesperson for Hancock said: “The Acoba website clearly states that it does not regard media appearances as an appointment or employment. The guidance on the website was followed in good faith.”