Boris Johnson broke ministerial rules when he took on his Daily Telegraph column after quitting as foreign secretary, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments has said.
The committee, known as Acoba, said it was “unacceptable” that he signed a contract with the Telegraph on July 12 – three days after quitting as foreign secretary – but did not ask for its advice on the propriety of the move until 14 days later, by which time his appointment was public knowledge.
This was “a failure to comply with your duty” under the government’s business appointment rules for former ministers, Acoba told Mr Johnson.
It was in his weekly Telegraph column that Mr Johnson made comments about the burka which sparked demands for an apology from a host of figures from all sides of politics, including Theresa May, Tory chairman Brandon Lewis and Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson.
Under the ministerial code, former ministers must apply to Acoba before taking up a new role.
The rules also stop ministers who have been members of the Cabinet from starting new jobs in the first three months after stepping down.
But despite breaking the rules, it is unlikely he will be punished as the watchdog does not have the power to sanction former ministers who do not follow its advice.
Labour MP Virendra Sharma, a champion of the anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain, said it was “exactly what you’d expect from Britain’s foremost rent-a-gob”.
He said: “Boris has once again shown that he cares only about himself, and that in order to get what he wants he’s willing to lie and break the rules.
‘Not content with having torn up the rulebook on waiting before taking up new jobs with new vested interests, Boris then shamelessly attacked Muslim women for their choice of dress. Is there anything he won’t say for column inches and a bit of attention?’
Mr Johnson was forced to give up the £275,000-a-year column when brought in to the Cabinet by Theresa May in 2016.
Asked about his outside earnings when he was London Mayor, Johnson argued that his Telegraph pay – then £250,000 – was ‘chicken feed’ and said: ‘I don’t see why, on a Sunday morning, I shouldn’t knock off an article.’
He received a £25,000 pay rise in 2015, according to the Commons Register of Members’ Interests.
Last year it was reported Mr Johnson was struggling to get by on his £142,467 foreign secretary’s salary and wanted to get back to earning “serious money” as a writer. His appointment forced him to put on ice a biography of William Shakespeare for which he had reportedly signed a £500,000 deal.