The Tory donors, peers and former aides who have been appointed non-executive directors

More than a dozen Conservative donors, peers and former aides have been handed top jobs overseeing Whitehall departments as non-executive directors, it can be revealed today.

John Stevens

Ministers are facing growing scrutiny over the roles after Downing Street yesterday admitted Matt Hancock personally appointed Gina Coladangelo – who was revealed as his lover last week – as a NED at the Department of Health.

The departmental board members are supposed to be recruited through ‘fair and transparent competition’ and come ‘primarily from the commercial private sector, with experience of managing complex organisations’.

But at least 13 of those currently holding the positions – which carry an average salary of £15,000 per year – have close links to the Conservatives.

They include donors who have contributed hundreds of thousands of pounds to party coffers. 

Lord Nash, who is the Government’s lead non-executive director across Whitehall, is a former Tory schools minister who has donated more than £484,000. 

The peer is also a NED at the Cabinet Office led by Michael Gove. He gave £3,250 to Mr Gove’s failed 2016 Tory leadership campaign.

Another Cabinet Office NED, Henry de Zoete, is a former special adviser to Mr Gove.

At the Department for International Trade board members include former Tory vice-chairman Dominic Johnson, who has donated £290,000 to the party.

He is a business partner of Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg – they co-founded investment firm Somerset Capital Management.

Former Tory MP Douglas Carswell also sits on the department’s board. Baroness McGregor-Smith, who ran to be Conservative candidate for London Mayor, is a NED at the Department for Education along with Nick Timothy, Theresa May’s former No10 joint chief-of-staff.

Eleanor Shawcross, who was a special adviser to former chancellor George Osborne, is a NED at the Department for Work and Pensions. 

Baroness Wyld, who worked in No10 as an aide to ex-PM David Cameron, is one at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. 

Lord Hill, who served in Mr Cameron’s Cabinet as Leader of the Lords, is a NED at the Treasury.

Fellow Tory Baroness Morrissey has the same role at the Foreign Office.

Ben Goldsmith sits on the board at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs where his brother Zac is a minister. 

He has donated £76,000 to the party, including £2,500 to Taunton Deane MP Rebecca Pow, who is also a minister in the department.

Nick Campsie, a NED at the Ministry of Justice, states on his LinkedIn page that he ‘campaigned on behalf of the Conservative Party during the EU referendum and has made donations in support of the party’s activities’. 

Wol Kolade, who is a non-executive director at NHS Improvement, has given more than £859,000 to the Conservatives, including £15,000 to Mr Hancock.

There were fresh questions yesterday about the appointments after No10 said former health secretary Mr Hancock had personally handed Miss Coladangelo her role as a NED last September.

Mr Hancock stood down on Saturday after leaked footage showed him in an intimate embrace with Miss Coladangelo on May 6 when such contact between households was advised against. 

The PM’s spokesman said: ‘I believe ministers are entitled to make direct appointments. Her appointment followed correct procedure.’

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister Fleur Anderson said: ‘The Government must publish all documents relating to the appointment of Gina Coladangelo. 

‘The role of a non-executive director is to challenge and scrutinise the minister. 

‘We need to know if the nature of their relationship was declared and whether the recruitment process was carried out in a fair and transparent way.’

It remains unclear if their romance began before she was appointed to the department or if this was ever declared as a conflict of interest. 

But Justice Secretary Robert Buckland told Sky News: ‘Everything that I understand so far leads me to believe due process was followed in the appointment of this person and any declarations that should’ve been made were made.’