This week, former Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered a stark warning to Boris Johnson’s government about China. Speaking on Radio 4, the former Tory MP suggested that Britain should avoid weakening trade links with the world’s second largest economy, and instead be ‘frank’ in private about our ‘strong differences of opinion’.
It was a strange intervention for him to make, as China implements its National Security Law in Hong Kong which threatens to undermine basic freedoms in the region. But Mr S wonders if Hammond had an entirely different regime in mind when he made his plea to not let human rights abuses get in the way of the economy…
On Monday, the committee which oversees business appointments for former ministers (ACOBA), revealed in a set of documents that Hammond is taking up a job with the government of Saudi Arabia.
According to the documents, Steerpike can disclose 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. Hammond reportedly told the committee that the role would mean ‘engaging’ with G20 countries, including the UK, on behalf of the Kingdom.
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.
Hammond has had a close relationship with Saudi Arabia for several years. In 2015 when Foreign Secretary, 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 last year, Hammond visited the country as Chancellor, to promote economic and social reform. On the trip, paid for by the taxpayer, he met the Minister of Finance who would later offer him a job.
This did not appear though to perturb the business appointments committee, who have rubber-stamped the new position. The committee has asked that Hammond not 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 also hopes that Hammond, as a former minister, will ‘act in the UK’s national interest’.
Let's hope that Hammond can bring himself to work with this 'intolerant' UK government...
A spokesman for Philip Hammond gets in touch: 'Saudi Arabia currently holds the rotating presidency of the G20 and he is advising the Saudi finance minister in that context. 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'.