George Eustice Joins Augean
George Eustice, ex-UK Environment Secretary (Feb 2020 Sep 2022), now consults for Augean, a UK waste management company. Controversy surrounds this move due to a prior environmental investigation resulting in fines for Augean.
George Eustice's New Role
George Eustice is now a strategic advisor at Augean, offering expertise on permits, regulations, and ESG matters. Notably, he can't lobby the government or use Whitehall contacts for Augean until September 2024.
Controversy Surrounding the Appointment
Eustice has declined to disclose the financial details of his new role and the specific experience he brings to Augean. However, he has assured that any financial interests will be duly declared through the parliamentary register. Notably, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) approved Eustice's appointment without acknowledging the earlier Environment Agency (EA) investigation into Augean.
EA Investigation and Fines
In March 2020, the EA found groundwater contamination at an Augean site. Augean South, a subsidiary, received a £25,000 fine and had to cover £11,058.90 in inquiry costs. Although wildlife and amphibians were briefly affected, the ecosystem naturally recovered, as confirmed by the EA.
While Defra claimed no direct involvement with Augean, transparency records show that other ministers conducted three roundtable meetings with the company in 2016 and 2017. This raises concerns about the government's past interactions with Augean.
Reactions and Criticism
George Eustice's appointment faces criticism from Liberal Democrats and Transparency International UK. Christine Jardine, the party's Cabinet Office spokesperson, is concerned about environmental regulations. Rose Zussman, Transparency International UK's policy manager, calls for better oversight of the public-private revolving door.