letters

Published: 07/10/2004, Volume II4, No. 5926 Page 26

I am not surprised by media reports of Cabinet secretary Sir Andrew Turnbull's concerns about the risk of conflicts of interest involving the the prime minister's former health policy adviser Simon Stevens, which mean Mr Stevens may be banned from lobbying for NHS contracts on behalf of his new employers UnitedHealth Group.Yet my feelings are somewhat mixed.

The minimum requirement for those going into and out of government is clarity, and that calls for a statement about Mr Stevens' obvious financial interest in United's future. But the same declaration of an interest should likewise apply to those like former Department of Health strategy unit director Professor Chris Ham, when the issue involves getting research contracts after a stint in government.

Declaration of the obvious possible conflicts is crucial.

However, it is important that the vetting process - whether of commercial or research contracts or simple consulting - is balanced and sophisticated.

What I am not keen about is the implication that because one has an interest, it is necessarily corrupting.

Theodore Marmor Professor of public policy and management Yale University School of Management