Former minister Brine acquitted of lobbying violations when value added tax was not paid

  • Former minister Steve Brine has been cleared of breaching lobbying rules because VAT was not paid.
  • Brine told then health secretary Matt Hancock Remedium Partners was “well worth a conversation”.
  • He received £1,600 a month but is not considered a consultant lobbyist as he is not VAT registered.

A former health minister has been acquitted of breaching lobbying rules for the second time in less than a year, because VAT was not paid in both cases.

Steve Brine, who served in Theresa May’s government until March 2019, sent a message to then health secretary Matt Hancock about Remedium Partners. He was paid £1,600 a month, his register of interests shows.

According to The Times, Brine told Hancock that the medical recruitment agency was “well worth a call from your team” about staffing the Nightingale hospital set up during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Former ministers are banned from lobbying ministers for two years after their last day in office. The message was sent in March 2020, meaning his approach fell within the restricted period.

However, an investigation by the Office of the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists, an independent statutory office sponsored by the Cabinet, found that Brine had not breached lobbying rules because VAT was not paid.

“Payments to Mr Brine from Remedium Partners were not paid to a VAT registered entity,” a summary of the decision said.

“Under the Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Transparency Act 2014 (the “Act”), registration under the VAT Act 1994 is one of three conditions that define lobbying for consultants.”

This is the second time an investigation into Brine has concluded that he did not lobby. In November 2021, the Office of the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists reached the same conclusion about his work for Sigma Pharmaceuticals.

Separately, a source told Insider that Brine was likely to be cleared of breaching the rules of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) on the basis that he did not take advantage of his former government role. The source was granted anonymity to speak freely.

Letters confirming this decision will be published confirming this in the coming days, the source said.

Neither Brine’s office nor Remedium responded to requests for comment.

An ACOBA spokesman declined to comment on the details, but said: “We have sought further assurances from Mr Brine following the Times story and will publish correspondence shortly.”

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