Guardian research in the aftermath of the 'jobs for generals' scandal shows extent of links between MoD and private sector
Lt General Sir John Kiszely, who has resigned as president of the Royal British Legion, was one of several former senior members of the military caught in a lobbying sting. Senior military officers and Ministry of Defence officials have taken up more than 3,500 jobs in arms companies over the past 16 years, according to figures that reveal the extent of the "revolving door" between the public and private sector.
The data, compiled by the Guardian from freedom of information requests, shows how the industry swoops on former officials and military personnel once they have left service, with hundreds of senior officers being given jobs every year. The figures for 2011-12 show 231 jobs went to former officials and military personnel – a rise from the previous year's total of 101. Another 93 have been approved since January. In total 3,572 jobs have been approved since 1996.
The disclosure comes in the aftermath of a "jobs for generals" scandal that led to the resignation of the president of the Royal British Legion, Lieutenant General Sir John Kiszely, who was embarrassed in a newspaper lobbying sting. Kiszely was one of several former senior members of the military caught on film by Sunday Times reporters who were pretending to seek lobbyists for a South Korean defence company. Admiral Trevor Soar, second in command of the Royal Navy until the spring, has also quit his role as an advisor at the large UK defence and engineering company Babcock.
The MoD began its own inquiry on Monday into the access that former members of the military have to serving officials. This may lead to a tightening of current restrictions and blanket bans on certain individuals approaching senior staff in the ministry. Figures obtained by the Guardian show that there has been a regular flow into the private sector every year since records began in 1996. There has never been fewer than 101 and the highest is 360.
The furore began at the weekend with the Sunday Times investigation in which six former members of the military were approached for help by journalists purporting to be working for a defence firm. Those fooled by the sting included Lord Dannatt, a former head of the army; Lieutenant General Richard Applegate, a former head of procurement at the MoD; and Lord Stirrup, a former chief of the defence staff. All of those involved intimated they knew people at the top of the MoD who could help the firm. Some bragged about their connections to ministers and the MoD's most senior civil servants.
Though they all denied wrongdoing, at least two of them appear to have been in breach of Acoba guidelines. These state that senior officers have to wait up to two years before they can lobby on behalf of defence companies. Soar, who retired this March, suggested he could ignore those guidelines if he was described as a consultant. Applegate, who has only just past the two years' "purdah", claimed he had spent the past 18 months working on behalf of an Israeli arms firm and had successfully lobbied the MoD to release £500m for a helicopter safety programme.
But even if the men have defied the Acoba rules, there is no way of sanctioning them or the firms with whom they might have been working. Jenkin said the public administration select committee (Pasc) had flagged this problem to the government in July and had recommended adopting a much tougher regime. "We recommended that there should be a statutory appointment of a conflict of interest and ethics commissioner, with statutory rules so that it is very clear what people can and cannot do. Acoba does not have any powers. This episode shows that and I hope the government will now look fa A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "This is an important issue as events over the weekend have shown. Jim Murphy, the shadow defence secretary, said the system needed to be changed. "It is ludicrous that rules can be broken without sanction and so we must see systematic change to restore confidence and standards.
"Military expertise should not be lost after retirement, but contact on defence contracts must be transparent and within established guidelines. We must get to the bottom of what happened. We must also establish the facts of ministerial involvement and awareness in these cases." Labour has tabled a series of questions on the issue, including a demand for details of meetings between former members of the military and serving civil servants, senior officers and ministers. [Abridged]