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Cabinet minister cleared over Radlett rail freight lobbyist lunch

 Published on: 20th October 2017   |   By: The Newsdesk   |   Category:

  Former Transport Secretary Theresa Villiers has been cleared of wrongdoing over a lunch she had with the chief lobbyist for Helioslough Ltd – the developer attempting to build a rail freight interchange on Radlett Airfield. A private lunch held between Ms Villiers (pictured) and lobbyist Simon Hoare in August 2011 was exposed in September by St Albans MP Ann Main, who wrote to Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heyward complaining that Ms Villiers broke the ministerial code “with potentially enormous consequences”. It was claimed that at the lunch “matters discussed included the Radlett proposal” and that after the meeting Mr Hoare emailed Ms Villiers urging her to support the Helioslough proposal as it would be a “real shot in the arm to the rail freight sector”. Following a four month investigation by Sir Jeremy Heyward, now Northern Ireland secretary Ms Villiers has been cleared of any wrongdoing. In his judgment Mr Heyward said the lunch was a “personal engagement with a long standing friend” that did not lead to any action from Ms Villiers’. He said: “This is a position that has been supported by accounts from both departments and I have absolutely no reason to doubt these accounts. Having considered this matter in full, I believe that both departments acted properly in respect of the planning appeal and that there is no evidence that decisions were affected by lobbying on behalf of Helioslough or other parties.” Ms Main blasted the decision as a “whitewash”. She said: “This enquiry took four months; never has it taken so long to say so little. I am very angry and deeply disappointed by the scant response I have received. My letter of complaint was four pages long and the response was less than one and a half. If this is the answer then it appears to be acceptable that ministers can have private undeclared lunches with old friends to discuss sub judicial planning decisions with impunity. She added: “This does not feel like justice for my constituents, we still hope that this decision will be overturned but in the meantime I still believe there are serious unanswered questions surrounding the transparency of the decision making for this application. I am not stopping until I have got to the bottom of this.”    

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