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Friday 11 March 2011

Wife of Health Secretary Andrew Lansley gave lobbying advice

The wife of Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, is running a public affairs business which boasts about advising drug and food companies, it emerged last night.

MP Andrew Lansley and his wife Sally on their wedding day Photo: PA

Sally Low, the managing director of Low Associates, denied being a lobbyist, saying she provided clients with “strategic policy” advice.

At a business conference less than two years ago, however, Miss Low gave a lecture on improving lobbying skills, where she advised people to “establish positive relationships with decision-makers before you need their help”.

“Pursue your lobbying internally until you hit a wall,” she added.

The disclosure of his wife’s work, on the first published list of ministers’ interests since the Coalition came to power, will again raise questions about Mr Lansley’s potential conflicts of interest.

Low Associates, which was set up in May 2009 according to company records, also helps people prepare before they give evidence to committees of MPs.

In a section of its website marked “Who do we do it for?” Low Associates lists a range of clients, including drug companies SmithKline Beecham, Unilever and P&G. It also states that its staff had advised the Conservative Party and worked for Kraft and General Foods.

Last night, after being contacted by The Daily Telegraph, Miss Low said the company did not now work with any companies in the health sector and said the list referred to companies that Low Associates staff had worked with in the past.

Low Associates is not registered with the Association of Professional Political Consultants, which requires that public affairs companies list their clients. Miss Low said that the company does not work with any client who has interests in the health sector and declined to comment on APPC membership.

Mr Lansley has previously been criticised for being bankrolled by the head of one of the biggest private health providers to the NHS. John Nash, the chairman of Care UK, gave £21,000 to fund Mr Lansley’s personal office shortly before the general election.

A spokesman for the Health Secretary said: “Sally is a serious businesswoman in her own right. She was director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce. None of her clients are health-related. There is no conflict of interest.

“The list of companies relates to some of their employees’ previous clients, when they worked for a different company, not the clients of Low Associates. She uses her own contacts and expertise.”

The new list of interests is substantially longer than that of the last government. Eight members of the Cabinet and eight other ministers have set up so-called “blind trusts”, which prevent scrutiny of their financial affairs — three times as many as under Labour.

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