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Lords standards watchdog rules out Feldman probe over conflict claim

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Andrew Feldman, former chair of the Conservative party, will not face an investigation by the House of Lords standards watchdog, its head said on Friday.

Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, the commissioner, said she would not pursue a complaint by the PRCA, Britain’s main public relations trade body, as there was “no prima facie case that the House of Lords Code of Conduct has been breached”.

The organisation submitted a complaint against Lord Feldman, managing partner of PR and lobbying firm Tulchan, to the House of Lords’ commissioner for standards last week claiming a “conflict of interest” relating to his time working as an adviser to Boris Johnson’s government.

The peer spent two months in the spring as an unpaid adviser to James Bethell, a health minister — from March 24 to May 15. On April 21 — during his tenure working as an adviser to Lord Bethell — the government awarded a £28m contract to Oxford Nanopore, a testing company.

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Lord Feldman subsequently received a contract from the firm to provide public relations advice on June 25, a month after ending his advisory role to Lord Bethell.

In a statement Ms Scott-Moncrieff said there was no indication that Lord Feldman was acting “in a parliamentary capacity” given he had taken a leave of absence from the upper chamber when the Oxford Nanopore contract was obtained by Tulchan.

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She said there was no sign that he had “sought to confer a benefit through parliamentary means or provided parliamentary advice or services either as an adviser to DHSC or in his role at Tulchan”.

Andrew Grant, senior partner at Tulchan, said the group had always maintained that both it and Lord Feldman had behaved entirely properly. “Andrew Feldman worked tirelessly during his time at DHSC and we at Tulchan, and he, are proud of the contribution that he made,” he said.

The PRCA responded by saying it still believed that “legislators cannot also be lobbyists” whether or not a politician has taken a leave of absence.

Separately the statutory regulator, the Office of the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists, rejected a complaint about Tulchan not listing Oxford Nanopore as a client on the ORCL quarterly register.

The group found “Oxford Nanopore was not a client of Tulchan in the period of Lord Feldman’s association with DHSC”. It said that “no consultant lobbying had been conducted by Tulchan on behalf of Oxford Nanopore” as of November 18.

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