David Blunkett has stated:
"I have not made any representations to any government department or agency on behalf of DNA Bioscience since returning to government, nor have I provided any advice to the company".
Now David Blunkett is not a stupid man, so we can be sure this statement was prepared with great care. We can therefore presume that David Blunkett DID make representations to government departments or agencies on behalf of DNA Bioscience when he was not a minister. This presumption is, let's face it, beyond reasonable doubt. If someone is asked if they have ever stolen anything, and they reply "not since May" you can reasonably assume that they did steal something before that date.
There has never been any objection in principle to MPs holding company directorships. Being an MP is a part-time job. Afterall, the MP for Sedgefield fits in being Prime Minister around his Parliamentary duties. But ministers and former ministers are obliged to avoid not just the conflict of interest, but the appearance of a conflict. The Ministerial Code is sufficiently flexible to allow for differing circumstances.
David Blunkett's circumstances were these. He had resigned from the government over improprieties in both his private and public life, but he remained a significant figure in the Labour Party. It was known that he had the confidence of the Prime Minister. Blair had even made the absurd statement in accepting Blunkett's resignation for previously breaching the Code that he "left office with his integrity intact". It was well known and widely acknowledged that he was very likely to return to high office soon, perhaps as ridiculously soon as immediately after the election.
Under these circumstances a lobbyist on behalf of a private interest has a remarkable degree of power. No minister, civil servant, or agency head that Blunkett lobbied would know whether Blunkett would be their boss in a few weeks time. He could, implicitly or even explicitly, threaten almost anyone.
While in his present role he does not oversee anyone who deals with DNA Bioscience, no-one, not even David Blunkett, knew what job Blunkett would have on his return to government. This fact provided zero protection against Blunkett applying pressure on ministers or civil servants on behalf of his private employer.
Under these circumstances there is no doubt that Blunkett's lobbying was improper. It breached the spirit of the Code.
That he has also breached the letter of it is not in doubt. He has claimed that this was okay, because the code is voluntary. Nowhere in the Code does it say this. What it says is that former ministers "should" consult the panel. The Blunkett and Number 10 are both saying that "should" is not "must". Such semantic weaseling will not impress anyone.
The Prime Minister says, in his introduction to the Code that he "expects" ministers to obey the letter and spirit of the Code. Again, he has not said that he will insist on it. But this minister has let down the PM's expectations, again. He has to go.