Today
Sun 17 January 2021

A senior member of Baroness Dido Harding’s team has joined a company previously awarded £140 million in COVID-19 contracts – and will be able to begin lobbying her former colleagues sooner than the rules usually allow

A former senior member of the Government’s ‘Test and Trace’ operation will be able to lobby her ex-Whitehall bosses after just four months in her new corporate job, Byline Times can reveal.

In December, it was reported that Emma Stanton had left her role and would be taking up the position of vice-president at Oxford Nanopore Technologies, which specialises in analysing DNA.

Stanton was previously director of supplies and innovation at ‘Test and Trace’ and her move to the private sector was controversial. Indeed, on 3 August, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) awarded a £112.6 million contract to Oxford Nanopore for the supply of testing equipment.

Stanton claims to have worked for the Government’s testing operation – run by Baroness Dido Harding – from July until the first week of November. The details of the Oxford Nanopore contract were publicly released by the Government on 6 November. The firm had also been awarded a £28 million deal in April for the supply of testing services.

She only made contact with Oxford Nanopore about employment opportunities after completing her Government work, Stanton claims, informing the DHSC on 25 November of the job offer.

The Government can prevent senior civil servants who have flown the nest for opportunities in the private sector from lobbying their former colleagues for two years. This policy is designed to “avoid any reasonable concerns” the Government says, that “a civil servant might be influenced in carrying out his or her official duties by the hope or expectation of future employment with a particular firm or organisation”.

However, Byline Times can reveal that Stanton’s lobbying embargo will only last four months. Asked about this by Labour MP Dan Carden, the Government released a copy of the conditions it had applied to Stanton.

As well as restricting Stanton’s lobbying for four months, the Government has said that the new Nanopore executive “must not be involved with any bids relating to NHS Test and Trace” for the same period of time.

“The department would also like to remind you that you may not use any privileged information that you have gained during your time at the department for the benefit of your new employer,” the document reads.

Responding to previous enquiries, the DHSC said that the terms placed on Stanton’s work at Oxford Nanopore are “subject to the usual business appointment rules process, and conditions on her taking up this role were put in place, commensurate to the short time she was working for the department”.

However, Carden isn’t convinced. “The revolving door between the Government and the corporate sector is out of control,” the Liverpool Walton MP told Byline Times. “It’s alarming to see such a lax approach to tackling potential conflicts of interest, especially when we’ve seen enormous sums of public money funnelled towards private companies during this crisis.

“The rules that are supposed to restrict corporate lobbying of government are completely ineffective and in urgent need of reform. It’s never been more important to fight for a robust system of checks and balances to hold power to account.”

An Oxford Nanopore spokesperson told Byline Times that: “Dr Emma Stanton worked for the Government on a four month fixed-term contract. The proposed four month period after this fixed term contract was determined by the DHSC formal process as being appropriate.

“For context, Dr Stanton’s role at Oxford Nanopore is to build a long-term international diagnostics business, including the creation of new healthcare solutions to benefit patients in infectious disease, cancer and transplantation. This reflects her previous international experience in healthcare.” 


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