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Civil service chief leaves post at SABMiller

The chief executive of the UK Civil Service will step down from his role at SABMiller after health professionals claimed it represented an “inexplicable and troubling” conflict of interest.

The chief executive of the UK Civil Service, John Manzoni

Upon being promoted to the position of Civil Service chief executive in February John Manzoni, a former BP executive, said he intended to hold onto his post as a non-executive board member at SABMiller but waive his £100,000 salary, a decision backed up by the Cabinet Office.

However Manzoni has since confirmed that his post at SABMiller would “come to an end” next summer and that he would not stand for re-election at its AGM next summer, according to reports by the Financial Times.

His decision follows mounting pressure from a group of 70 leading medical professional who contested his new position in a letter to the cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood.

The group claimed that Manzoni’s position at SABMiller represented a clear conflict of interest with UK public health policy goals, given that his role at the civil service is to work toward better commercial deals on behalf of taxpayers.

The letter read: “We write to you as public health professionals to express our deep concerns about the alcohol industry interests held by the newly appointed chief executive of the UK civil service, John Manzoni. We find it inexplicable and troubling that Mr Manzoni retains a paid position as non-executive director of one of the world’s largest brewers, SABMiller, while stepping down from two other paid positions in the energy sector.

“This appears to be only partial fulfilment of the Nolan principles, which require holders of public office to ‘take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest’.”

Signatories included Professor Klim McPherson, chairman of the UK Health Forum, Prof Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and Alison Cox, of Cancer Research UK.

SABMiller, the world’s second largest brewer by sales, is responsible for brands including Grolsch and Bulmers and has opposed the introduction of minimum pricing on alcohol – a change UK health professionals are pushing for.

Katherine Brown, director of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, said she found the situation “astonishing” telling The Guardian: “Having the chief executive of the UK civil service receive private funds from an industry whose impact and activities are so highly contested is seriously problematic. This presents a major risk of conflict of interest and exposes public policy to interference by big business financial goals.”

SABMiller have not commented.

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