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On Monday, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, the committee which oversees business appointments for former ministers, revealed in a set of documents that former Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond is taking up a job with the government of Saudi Arabia. According to the documents, the former Chancellor will be a paid, part time advisor to the Kingdom’s Finance Minister as the country prepares to host the G20 Leaders’ summit in November. Mr Hammond is said to have told the committee that the role would mean “engaging” with G20 countries, including the UK, on behalf of the Kingdom.
The former Chancellor has had a close relationship with the Saudis for years, though.
In 2015, he came under fire for accepting a watch worth nearly £2,000 from a Saudi businessman, despite a ban on ministers accepting expensive gifts.
And in July of last year, Mr Hammond visited the country as Chancellor, to promote economic and social reform.
On the trip, paid for by the British taxpayer, he met the Minister of Finance who later offered him the job.
The committee has urged Mr Hammond not to be “personally involved” in lobbying the government, though that “would not prevent” him from having contact with the UK government on behalf of the Saudis.
The Cabinet Office is also reportedly hoping Mr Hammond, as a former Chancellor, will “act in the UK’s national interest”.
In a recent report for The Spectator, the magazine’s gossip columnist Steerpike wrote about Mr Hammond’s new job: “It appears that the former Chancellor, who in September said the Tory party is no longer ‘tolerant’ and has been infected with ‘ideological puritanism that brooks no dissent’ has no problem working with a regime that regularly persecutes government critics, tortures and beheads the accused, and is suspected of brutally killing the journalist and critic of the regime Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.”
A spokesman for Mr Hammond told the publication: “Saudi Arabia currently holds the rotating presidency of the G20 and he is advising the Saudi finance minister in that context.
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“The G20 has a vital role to play in preparing the global economy for post-Covid recovery – ensuring the recovery is as inclusive as possible’.
Last year, Mr Hammond did not attend the Conservative Party conference for the first time in 35 years, as he claimed the party he first joined was “suffering a convulsion that makes it – for now at least – unrecognisable to me”.
He also called for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to “moderate his language”, and described the current Tory government as a bunch of “radicals” who seek Brexit by any means.
He wrote in The Times in September 2019: “For the first time in 35 years I am not packing my bag to travel to the Tory party conference tomorrow.
“The party I joined as a student and first campaigned for in the 1979 general election is suffering a convulsion that makes it — for now at least — unrecognisable to me.
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“Gone is the relaxed, broad-church coalition, united by a belief in free-trade, open markets, fiscal discipline and a fear of the pernicious effects of socialism, but tolerant of a wide range of social and political opinion within its ranks.
“In its place is an ideological puritanism that brooks no dissent and is more and more strident in its tone.”
The Saudi government, which enforces sharia law under the absolute rule of the House of Saud, have been accused of and denounced by various international organisations and governments for violating multiple human rights within the country.
The totalitarian regime ruling the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is consistently ranked among the “worst of the worst” in Freedom House’s annual survey of political and civil rights.
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