Half of all ministers who have left office in the Boris Johnson or Theresa May governments later took up posts with companies relevant to their former government jobs, the Guardian has found.
An analysis of those who left departmental ministerial roles up until the most recent reshuffle found more than 50 took up employment as advisers in industries where they had government expertise or as more general political consultants.
Many of them are still parliamentarians – either in the Commons or the Lords – where they occupy second jobs in addition to their work as lawmakers. And at least a dozen were cabinet ministers, some of them with direct links between their jobs and former government briefs.
Patrick McLoughlin, a former transport secretary, now lists remunerated employment with Airlines UK, an industry lobbying body, and XRail, a railway services company, while another former transport secretary, Chris Grayling, took a £100,000-a-year job as a strategic adviser to a ports company.
Nicky Morgan, a former culture secretary, Treasury minister and now a peer, took on roles on the board of Santander bank, and as a consultant to Travers Smith corporate law firm, a senior adviser to the lobbying and PR firm Grayling, and last week became the independent chair of the Association of British Insurers.
Several former ministers also took up roles advising foreign governments or their state organs, including the former Foreign Office minister Mark Field, who was approved for a job advising the Cayman Islands, and Philip Hammond, the former chancellor and now a peer, who got advisory roles to Kuwaiti and Bahraini financial authorities.
Former health ministers including Lord O’Shaughnessy, Nicola Blackwood and Steve Brine took jobs with private health companies, while the former energy minister John Hayes accepted a role at an energy company.
The analysis shows the extent to which the revolving door has become commonplace for former Tory ministers after leaving government office. Most of the appointments were approved by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, which critics have claimed lacks teeth.
The government has been hit by more than a week of revelations now about MPs, lobbying and their second jobs, including the furore over Owen Paterson’s direct paid advocacy for two companies, which led to his resignation. The government has also been in hot water over the extra legal work undertaken by former attorney general Geoffrey Cox, who was found to have been voting in parliament by proxy from the British Virgin Islands.
Boris Johnson on Sunday came the closest so far to expressing regret for the government’s actions over the scandal after it was forced to pull attempts to overhaul the standards system in a way that would have let Paterson off the hook. The prime minister stressed he was now leaving the issue of finding cross-party consensus on reform to the Commons standards committee, which is working on recommendations for changing the system.
After being asked what he would say to those who think he had “got it wrong”, Johnson replied: “Of course, I think things could certainly have been handled better, let me put it that way, by me.”
The prime minister also said he had confidence in the independent parliamentary commissioner for standards, Kathryn Stone, whose role was at one point queried by the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng.
Johnson told a Downing Street press conference: “I think the commissioner has a job to do and a huge amount of work to do and she needs to get on and be allowed to do it. Now, on whether the system is capable of improvement or not is a matter for the standards committee and for the house.”
Stone has investigated Johnson several times already and rebuked him over late financial declarations. However, her finding that he could have been more open about the funding of a holiday to the Caribbean paid for by a Tory donor was later overturned by the standards committee. She is soon due to decide whether to launch an investigation into the funding of a refurbishment of his Downing Street flat following calls from Labour MPs, after the Electoral Commission has finished its own inquiry.
Johnson also told the Downing Street press conference that all MPs should work “above all” for their constituents.
“Anybody who lobbies on behalf of a commercial interest is clearly in breach of the rules,” he said. “You can take from what I’ve said that all MPs should follow the rules, and I think that the rules are there to protect them, protect the public, they’re very simple to understand, and we should just get on with it.”