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The government has refuted claims of conflict of interest, after it was revealed that its appointee to oversee fair competition in the newly privatised NHS was on the pay roll of a private health firm, saying the amount he was being paid would not be nearly enough to bribe someone of his status.

A spokesperson for Number 10 explained that the accusations were unfounded because the American healthcare firm McKesson, which was expecting to make millions from the healthcare reforms, would only be paying the government appointee Lord Carter a trifling £799,000 a year:

The accusations of undue influence are laughable because everyone in the business of government bribery knows that a British peer of the realm would need to be trousering at least a million before they’d even consider changing their opinion about the weather, never mind government policy.

Lord Carter is also chairman of the Bermuda-registered Primary Group Ltd, a private-equity investment company that owns big slices of other healthcare firms and an adviser to Warburg Pincus International Ltd, another investment fund with large health interests.

However, the spokesperson also pointed out that although Lord Carter’s income from these sources is not publicly disclosed, as a titled Lord of the Realm, the amounts would not be enough to cover his annual champagne bill, never mind influence his decision making:

It should be remembered that Lord Carter is a member of the House of Lords, not the House of Commons who we all know would be willing to sell their own grandmothers for a couple of tenners. Peers demand a lot more than MPs before they’d consider selling out their principles. Unless they’re Lib Dem peers of course, in which case they’d probably do it for nothing if the Tories tell them to.

A spokesperson for Labour refused to be drawn on the issue, saying it was a sensitive discussion the opposition was keen to avoid:

Actually it was Labour who first gave Lord Carter a position overseeing fair competition in the NHS in the first place so we’d rather not talk about it. Besides, all of our front benchers are hoping to be knighted one day and be raking in the dosh too so do you mind if we talk about something else instead?

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Related articles by Tom Pride:

David Cameron could have been ridden by Rebekah Brooks, Downing Street admits

Murdoch Cuts Price of Sun on Sunday’s Bribes by Half

Met police loaned retired mounted officer to Rebekah Brooks

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