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Govt. minister ‘employed’ by telco consultancy

There's an IR35 angle here, too

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A junior Treasury minister appears to be moonlighting as the employee of Ovum, judging from the telecoms consultancy's web site. In the section headed: "About Ovum", the company reveals what "really sets us apart". This includes "finally, our independence and integrity. Ovum is 100% owned by its staff. We are therefore completely independent. Behaving with integrity is one of our core values." Now turn to the Register of Members Interests on Parliament's Web site and scroll down to the entry for Stephen Timms, Labour MP for East Ham, and Financial Minister at the Treasury. Under section 9. For Registrable shareholdings, Timms lists an interest in "Ovum Ltd., consultancy in telecommunications and computing markets". Workaday MPs are allowed to hold outside jobs, but government ministers are not. Is there a sleaze angle here? The answer has to be a resounding; "no": the fault lies in Ovum's innacurate boast (we refer of course to the "100 per cent owned by its staff" claim, and not to the "independent" and "integrity" assertions). However, Timms, a former Ovum employee, can be criticised for his tardiness in transferring his shares in the company into a blind trust. Only now is he getting around to this. This is precisely the tack taken by the Tories just before Christmas. Shadow Chancellor Francis Maude noted the "conflict of interest" between Timms' shareholding in a large IT consultancy and his membership of the government team forcing through IR35. This new and highly controversial tax measure will make it much less attractive financially for computer contractors to stay self-employed. The balance will tip in favour of the large consultancies (such as Ovum) who will now be able to take on ex-contractors as perms at reduced rates. Or so the argument goes. Timms was a little fortunate perhaps with the timing of the Tory attack: aside from an article in The Times (Dec 24), no-one else appears to have picked up on it. But again, Timms is blameless: Ovum is a consultancy of pundits, not of software programmers or project managers. And computer/ telco industry analysts are not exactly taking up their cudgels against IR35. Finally, Timms' remit as Financial Minister does not extend to IR35 -- this can of worms belongs to his boss, paymaster general Dawn Primarolo. Finally, we'd like to thank Register tipster Paul Sture for alerting us to this story. ® Related stories and links Contractors: cast aside your IR 35 fears, Paymaster General says IR35 protestors march on Parliament Hague gets bald with Blair over IR35 IR35 battle lost, but war continues Parliament Treasury Ovum IR35 Update

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