David Cameron Barred from Illumina Lobbying
Ex-Prime Minister of the UK, David Cameron, has been given an extended lobbying ban that prevents him from approaching the government on behalf of San Diego-based Illumina. The decision has been passed down by the Office of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) in response to his acceptance of a paid role with the sequencing company. The ban will last until July this year.
Mr Cameron has demonstrated significant interest in the genomics space in the past, noting it as a distinctly personal area after his son was diagnosed with a rare neurological disease. While he was in office, he oversaw the establishment of Genomics England in 2013 with the intention of delivering the 100,000 Genomes Project. Since leaving his role at the head of the British government, he has amassed a series of paid and unpaid roles with various organisations, including Alzheimer’s Research UK and, now, Illumina.
The relationship between Illumina and Mr Cameron was announced last month. Then, last week, ACOBA published the requested letter they provided Mr Cameron with in November last year, advising him that, while taking the role with Illumina was acceptable, he should not involve himself in government lobbying programs until two years had passed since his final day in office. As he left Downing Street, the traditional home of the Prime Minister, on 13th July 2016, this advice would prevent him from lobbying the government for another four months.
When asking ACOBA for advice on this matter, Mr Cameron stated that he wouldn’t involve himself in the relationship between Illumina and Genomics England, because of the potential conflicts of interest and possible inside information. This, along with details regarding the nature of the appointment, led the Committee to conclude that the position should not present a legal or ethical issue.
“The Committee has considered the risk of this appointment affording Illumina an unfair advantage,” the letter reads. “Illumina is likely to benefit from your status and profile as former PM. However, the Committee considered there is no reason to think Illumina stand to gain an unfair commercial advantage. The 16 months that have passed since you left office is of relevance to this assessment and, more importantly, [the Department of Health] confirmed it is not aware of you having had any direct involvement that would have given you access to information about Illumina’s competitors.”
At the same time, ACOBA did raise concerns regarding the possibility of Mr Cameron contacting members of the UK Parliament on behalf of Illumina. It was these concerns that led to the implementation of a lobbying ban.
“The Committee appreciates that you may need to interact with Ministers at public forums and conferences, where Ministers might be in attendance,” they wrote. “The Committee also recognises that there may be occasions where Government might want to engage with Illumina on policy issues and sees no difficult with you discussing such matters with Government. However, the Committee is clear that given your status and influence as former PM, it would not be appropriate for you, in this role, to instigate engagement with Ministers or officials. For this reason the Committee has recommended an extended lobbying ban, which makes clear that you may not approach Ministers or Government officials in your capacity as an advisor to Illumina and may only brief them at the request of Government.”
This ban includes restricting Mr Cameron from disclosing any pertinent information to Illumina that he obtained by nature of his appointment within the government, advising any company on bids or contracts with the British government, or becoming involved in any lobbying of the UK government on behalf of Illumina.