Chris Grayling to advise ports operator in £100,000 role

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Chris GraylingImage source, PA Media

Ex-Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has landed a £100,000 job advising the owner of some of the UK's top ports.

The Conservative MP is working for Hutchison Ports, which operates Harwich and Felixstowe among other terminals.

According to the MPs' register of financial interests, he will be paid for seven hours work a week for a year.

The appointment has been approved by a Whitehall watchdog despite it raising concerns of a "perceived risk" that it may give the firm an unfair advantage.

The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) said Mr Grayling had reassured them he would not be advising the company on its commercial maritime activities or risks and opportunities associated with Brexit.

The watchdog said the role would be limited to advising the firm, which also operates London Thamesport, on its environmental strategy and its engagement with local enterprise bodies.

It said the MP must comply with these and other conditions, including a ban on him lobbying ministers on behalf of the company or giving advice on UK government tenders, until July 2021, two years after he left the cabinet.

Mr Grayling stepped down as transport secretary when Boris Johnson became PM in July 2019, having served under his predecessor Theresa May for three years.

Toothless regulator?

MPs are allowed to take on second jobs - and while some have argued that representing constituents should be a full-time occupation, others say working in "the real world" keeps members of Parliament grounded in reality.

For ex-members of the government, however, taking on paid work is slightly trickier - particularly if they have only recently given up their ministerial red boxes.

There are rules on appointments set by the government, with compliance overseen by ACOBA.

Former ministers and ex-senior civil servants are are expected to seek advice from the watchdog and follow its advice if they want to start a job less than two years after leaving government.

However although the watchdog has the power to put information about appointments into the public domain, it has no formal enforcement powers.

In 2017, a committee of MPs described ACOBA as "a toothless regulator".

And in the same year, Labour's then shadow cabinet office minister Jon Trickett said it was "populated with establishment figures".

Critics of Mr Grayling say he made a series of poor decisions during his time in the job, including awarding a contract to a group of ferry operators to provide extra capacity after the UK left the EU - one of which had never sailed a vessel.

The contracts, which Mr Grayling described as an insurance policy, were later cancelled. The National Audit Office estimated that the costs incurred to the taxpayer could be as high as £56.6m.

Mr Johnson sought to install the MP for Epsom and Ewell as chair of the powerful Commons Intelligence and Security Committee in July.

But MPs on the committee voted to back his colleague Julian Lewis instead. Mr Grayling has since quit the committee.

MPs with second jobs

Image source, Reuters
  • Ex-Chancellor Sajid Javid made headlines over the summer when he accepted a job as an adviser to US investment bank JP Morgan, for whom he used to work in the in the 1990s in New York
  • George Osborne's enthusiasm to take on extra work while still an MP grabbed headlines. After being sacked as chancellor, the Conservative accepted several roles including as an advisor to the BlackRock Investment Institute and the editor of the London Evening Standard newspaper. He quit politics in 2017 and recently stood down as the Standard's editor, taking on the role of "editor-in-chief"
  • After leaving Downing Street, Labour's Gordon Brown remained an MP while taking up positions with New York University, the World Wide Web Foundation, Harvard University and the Adam Smith College in Kirkcaldy, Scotland
  • Current PM Boris Johnson was criticised by ACOBA for failing to seek their advice before signing a contract to become a Daily Telegraph columnist less than a week after resigning as foreign secretary
  • Conservative Sir Geoffrey Cox - attorney general under Theresa May - has often made it to lists of best paid MPs through his work as a barrister. Last year he apologised to Parliament after failing to declare earnings in excess of £400,000 from his legal work
  • Labour's Patricia Hewitt stepped down as health secretary in 2007, but six months later found work as an adviser to Boots the Chemist