Liz Truss has bowed to public pressure and released meetings she had with an influential pro-Brexit think tank which were removed from the public register.
Labour accused the trade secretary of performing a “shambolic” U-turn and claimed Truss had been caught trying to bypass rules to stop the “secret lobbying” of ministers.
In August, Truss was accused by Labour of burying connections with the pro-hard Brexit think tank Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) when she erased two meetings from a public register.
At the time, Truss insisted they were “personal” and had accidentally appeared on the trade department’s register due to an “administrative error”. Their removal was the first in the department’s history,
But on Thursday, a junior minister from Truss’ department wrote to Labour saying the meeting would now be reinstated on to the public record, Reuters has revealed.
“The Secretary of state (Truss) was not immediately aware of these changes made at the end of August, and has now carefully considered the appropriate Cabinet Office guidelines,” Graham Stuart wrote in the letter.
“Sometimes it is not entirely clear-cut whether an event is ‘political’ or is independent of a minister’s official responsibilities. However, in the interests of full transparency, she has asked that these entries are to be reinstated as per the original departmental publication.”
Stuart said senior Labour figures had also failed to disclose meetings since 2016.
The IEA is seen as one of Britain’s most influential right-leaning think tanks and promotes a clean break from the EU.
Truss’ department did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
Shadow trade minster Emily Thornberry said the U-turn raised more questions than it answered.
“Behind this shambolic farce, there is a serious issue,” Thornberry told Reuters.
“The Cabinet Office rules exist to stop secret lobbying, dodgy dealing, and favours for cronies. Those rules are an important part of our democracy, and not for the first time, Liz Truss has been caught out apparently trying to get around them.”